Two poems by Andrew Mandelbaum

Museau de Singe

Between the skimming talons
and the unswearable,
those mutinous hearts

flotsamed free,
we tie ourselves to what we will
and sing asylum down.

By pelagic twilight,
salted close, we sieve a crib
from the monkey's muzzle:
song of untranslatable custom,
vestigal heat cupped
in half-webbed hands.

The empty hips of the whale
rise beneath our treading feet--



Your long-ribbed notes uplifted beneath the blade,
sing no children from the land, only stone and stump
a sprig of bile, the sniffling of the spade.
The empty sockets in the earth where olive trees once

will never comb the honey but they will gather blood,
the curdled milk of memory in cisterns of dark rage.

Behind the western wall, the wound a gilded god,
they strain the night for watchwords; they dream of

     Aaron's rod;
but Zipporah seeks asylum from the binding oaths of ash;
she listens now in Sinai for the breath of Aaron's calf.

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