Paul Nemser

The Dead, At Home,
July 18, 2019 Nemser Paul

The Dead, At Home,

snag on brush and low cactus.
They swing like paper streamers
or like land
changing hands.
No cure for this, only white gauze rising:
a dry light across a ribbed gash
that floods in spring, driving
the wild goats up onto a knife edge.
Leopards leap up
quietly after them.
I have been occupied,
prayerless in a cave,
reconstructing the temple of Solomon
in the creases of this gray next
mudtunnel room, walls in which wasps
have dug millions of holes,
the buzz
like living water.

How beautiful the falls of En Gedi.
How lonely the low-slung acacias
on a cliff above the Dead Sea.

Everyone’s hideaway
is on top
of someone else’s. Everybody’s water
is everyone’s wave.
Swimmer, swimmer,
don’t put your eyes where the dead live!
Who speaks the word salt
without every wound in pain?

For the young, wisdom
is a tooth to be filled. a wasp says
as it stings me on the tongue.
The dead
remember what they never knew.

Paul Nemser’s book Taurus (2013) won the New American Poetry Prize, and his chapbook of prose poems Tales of the Tetragrammaton was published in 2014.  His poems appear widely in magazines, recently in The Baffler, Beloit Poetry Journal, London Review of Books, The Massachusetts Review, and The Missouri Review, among others.  Nemser lives with his wife Rebecca in Cambridge, MA, and Harborside, ME.