Bituminous was so soft, so much like dust,
you could cover a roaring fire till
cold and darkness were all you had, then
two even three weeks later you could poke it
and the blue flames you identified with the Great Sparks
would gradually rise and spread, that
rabbi Kook of Palestine took for Being itself,
so long as Being didn’t have a white beard,
though those flames are cursed now.
Gerald Stern is the author of the National Book Award-winning This Time, the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize-winning Early Selected Poems, and other books. He has also been awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the National Jewish Book Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, and the Robert Frost Medal, among many other honors. He lives in Lambertville, New Jersey.