Teresa Cader

Three Poems
April 24, 2024 Cader Teresa

with words by Amos Oz


Heat, filthy, gut-sick heat in my city’s cobblestone streets.
I hear Bennu aims to split a continent or two. What kind of God does that?
It looks like a saltwater wedge has surged into the dry Mississippi, could poison tap water.
Amos Oz—the kind of man I could have been, a run on sentence asserting itself.
Elon Musk, beaten by his father for being beaten by his friends, loves Mars.
A baguette, how absurd that I died carrying oblong bread, fragrant with yeast.
My Nazi owner fought with his friend; it’s said each shot the other’s “personal Jew.”
I died in the streets many times before and after that.
What political cant does for the lonely: the mob’s chant warms your ear.
Oz wanted to grow up to be a book, not a writer. If I had been a book…
It’s frankly tiresome to watch my life story repeat— and unoriginal.
On Mars, assuming there aren’t already Martians, will my dying finally end?
How brilliant—plans to outwit Bennu while we let the glaciers melt.
Beginning to tell a story is like making a pass at a total stranger at a restaurant.
My short stories are more like poems, some say. A poem is like a one-night stand.
I see my Polish city’s now in Ukraine, invaded by the latest hordes.
Elon, I have no faith in Mars. Maybe in a book, not the author.
That mural I painted on the Nazi’s wall? An ocean voyage set in a desert.





A voice rose from the rhododendron
outside my window where grackles sleep.


You must stop thinking so much.


Catfish sailed on silver threads above my head.
Alarm rang the alarm.


I snoozed. A catfish caught by a cat sizzled up
in a fry pan loaded with salt. I snoozed again.


I was the cat who hunted the catfish, lugged
it home in my jaws so I could eat it.


I was the catfish in the cat’s teeth, bumped along
then dumped on the ground, praying eyes open.


The chef? That was me, too: chopping off
the catfish head, happy with my slaughter.






When Luther couldn’t convert his Jewish neighbors, he wrote:


Set fire to their synagogues and schools in honor of our Lord
and of Christendom, that God might see we are Christians.


Between us iron grates and the cries of blackbirds on graves.
Wind circles the firs. A child bounces a red ball.


You stand smiling after five hundred years. You ask for nothing
more than a coin from history, the blessing of pigeons nibbling


crumbs at your feet, but it was never this simple. How young
I was when my parents converted from Catholicism, entered


the plain nave of a Protestant chapel and its Bach cantatas.
Condemned by priests, shunned by our Irish relatives,


we became devout Presbyterians. My Polish grandfather,
a religious and political rebel, wouldn’t let a priest in his house.


In Sunday school, I was taught about the Reformation’s doctrines,
martyrs, exiles. What can a child understand of cruelty


and dogma? I missed my cousins in their First Communion
finery, their frosted cakes. In Europe, in Ireland, death came


for centuries with the swing of a censer, a bare cross replacing
the crucifix, families divided with the slice of a cake knife.


We stand in this land where the people of the book visit us
in the fall wind—Jews and Christians, who’ve strayed,


says the Quran, from God’s true faith. Enough, the blackbirds cry.


Teresa Cader’s fourth poetry collection, AT RISK, was selected by Mark Doty for the 2023 Richard Snyder Memorial Book Prize and will be published by Ashland Poetry Press in October 2024. Her other books include: History of Hurricanes (Northwestern, 2009), selected as a “Must Read” book by the Massachusetts Center for the Book; The Paper Wasp (Northwestern, 1998); and Guests (1990), winner of The Journal/Charles B. Wheeler Prize Poetry Prize and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has been awarded two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and multiple honors and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, MacDowell, and Bread Loaf. Her poems have appeared in The AtlanticSlatePlumePoetryHarvard ReviewOn the SeawallAGNIPloughsharesHarvard Magazine, and many other venues. Her work has been translated into Icelandic and Polish.