Paul Hoover

Zacharia, Malachi
February 15, 2012 Hoover Paul

Zacharia, Malachi


1.  The Lord One and His Name One

And the prophets, do they live forever?


When the shepherd is stricken

the sheep scatter to mourn;

when the god burns,

each pot of fire mourns

in the blazing wood.

A cloud mourns the pilot

lost in the mist of stop-time.

The reckless mourn the meek,

the dwindling lake its streams

and the damaged heart its affections.

There will be no refinement;

error spreads like a crack, crazing the dishes.

The husband mourns the virgin

as the moon mourns the day,

But what shall the sun mourn,

that master of praise and shadow?

Shall a river mourn the rain,

grain regret the harvest?

The joiner praises board and nail,

and a shapeless weight on the table

gives thanks for what it is.


Mourn what is broken;

praise what is restored.

Even the Lord of Hosts

calmly awaits his passing

in the sleek seed of the fruit,

in the stone asleep at its station.

But the speeding car is forever,

and the loud noise everlasting,

erupting in metal nearby.

Infinite the disturbance

in paradise on earth,

and soft are the cries of children.


For the angel that is always passing

speaks with me at night,

through the lattice and the vine.

It speaks like a wind-torn scroll,

but has the wings of a stork.

Its hair streams in its coursing,

and its tears flow like cream.


2.  Refiner’s Fire

You will go forth leaping, like calves from the stall.


What can I tell you?

In the man I am and the god I will never be,

something calls, day after day,

that looks like a flower

at the volcano’s cliff-edge,

but sounds like if and ever,

and it says out of my mouth:


“I am the Prolific and the Devourer.

I have more fears and pains

than wheat has grains in the field.

I am the head start and the dead end.

Come with your vestige of voles,

your working group of wombats,

ecstasies of egrets, and attitude of ants,

for I am the refiner’s fire.


My fathering is the first thing

and mothering is my last.

I see what you are up to

and all the vacations you plan.

Let the field mouse stand at the station

with two packed bags;

I am both what made him

and the train that arrives like a cat.

I’m the one who eats the sandwich

you were too exhausted to finish;

I trim your hedgerows at night,

flush your forgotten toilets, mail your lost letters

when they turn up under the rug.

I pity the soothsayers, false witnesses,

and accountants of pleasure and pain—

where in misery are they?


In the dawn of the heart, only true men arise,

but I am the rock, as of love abiding;

I will hold you in your speeding

and rush with you through sleep.

I am your tall boots and your bent frame,

your swampland and your hard ground.

At the lifting of the encampment,

I quietly put out your fires,

and I am fire restored, leaping through the wood.


If, on a Mars trip, loneliness invades

and madness wears your name,

I will give you a big hug

and surround you with the children

you remember as your own.

And you will work in peace at the bench of the Lord,

a shoemaker, a tailor, who can close

every breach with his hands.


For you alone, I soften the winds of heaven.

There you will keep a book of remembrance

and another of forgiveness,

and there will be no book

in which your name is rain.

They will say of you then,

this thin man has a fat life,

and his bowls of wine are top-flight.”

Paul Hoover’s most recent book of poetry, Gravity’s Children, is currently being prepared for publication. Mr. Hoover is the editor of New American Writing, and Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, 1994; with Maxine Chernoff, he edited and translated Selected Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin , which won the 2009 PEN USA Translation Award. With Nguyen Do, he edited and translated Beyond the Court Gate: Selected Poems of Nguyen Trai. A chapter of his novel, Saigon, Illinois, appeared  in The New Yorker and his poems have been published in numerous anthologies, and in journals and reviews including American Poetry Review, The Paris Review, Partisan Review, The New Republic, and Poetry.