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By Robert Wexelblatt


The Montréal Review, June 2011




After the blizzard heaven crashed and froze,

the cosmos turned to thinnest porcelain.

He feels as if, could he strike it, the sky

would toll once then shatter.  He pities unhoused

sparrows, drivers of articulated

trucks, night watchmen, lost cats, abandoned dogs.

The study window is knee-deep in frost.

To be snug, sometimes, is sin.

Wandering with his yarns of waves

Heaving heavenwards heroes' hulls,

Of sword-oaths swiftly sworn,

Shattered shields and lopped limbs

Stuck in blood-pooled battlefields,

Tales of dragons dragging men to devour

In dens dug deep in Danish dirt,

Skald staggers, stumbling into snow,

lordless, frozen, and forlorn.

A rapper's vanity is rhyme

And meter that keeps perfect time.

Ferociously he barks a story

Glorifying his own glory.

Spiders from their guts extrude

Intricate skeins to snare their food:

To the trapped flies, all webs are rude.

His colleagues at the bank smirked when they learned

            Hanson wrote verse.

They thought it like hugging oaks or cooking quiche;

            Not on their lives

Would they poetize, worse than collecting

            stamps or stocks-or wives.

"So, I hear the banker amuses himself with poetry?"

            scoffed the president's son.

Hanson smiled, put down the phone, drew himself

            up with pride.

"No," he replied. "The poet diverts himself with banking

            on the side."

Academic poets flock to their retreats,

careful not to mistake commoners for lords,

hot for chapbook publishers, fighting

back the urge to quote themselves and the inkling

that the only good bard is a dead one.

Sooner or later the finest Chinese

poets were all banished to the boondocks.  

The weak, bitterly sentimental, wrote

eastward-facing lamentations while the

strong opened their eyes on fresh landscapes, threw

their arms around new subjects.  

                       Hsi-wei wrote

children's rice songs and lyrics on medlar trees,

verses dense as bamboo forests, Li-du his

On A Peasant's Wife Giving Birth Beside Her Sow.  

They say the great Chu-po bravely quipped, "It's

the Emperor who's in exile from Chu-po."

In the cold Bulgaria of his soul, on

the shore of a black-flowing Danuvius,

he sees himself metamorphosed from

lion to exile, feels himself bursting

with unsung verses, bereft of listeners,

rivals, even critics. How does one resign

oneself to the exile of one iron desk

and to a doubtful immortality?


Robert Wexelblatt is professor of humanities at Boston University's College of General Studies.  He has published essays, stories, and poems in a wide variety of journals, two story collections, Life in the Temperate Zone and The Decline of Our Neighborhood, a book of essays, Professors at Play; his recent novel, Zublinka Among Women, won the Indie Book Awards First Prize for Fiction.


Zublinka Among Women Robert Wexelblatt

( KenArnoldBooks, 2008)

"Loaded with wit, bristling irony, draped in erudition and studded with metaphysics": so wrote The New York Times Book Review about Robert Wexelblatt's work. This warm and witty novel of ideas shows that goodness is possible-and in Zublinka palpable-but that goodness is seldom unalloyed. As Zublinka and we learn in the course of this richly rewarding story, the discovery of truth and one's self is the work of a lifetime. Wisdom is possible and hard won.


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