David Gewanter

Two Poems

The Pardon

for Ezra Pound

Jew and Jew-hater, fingers stretched
Round each other’s throat, wheeze
Their intimate threats in this
Unending heaven of rhetoric

I see behind his book—and he
Might have joined that bickering chorus
Once his body sloughed off
And left him breathing in his own mask,

One, many-voiced…but he died
Renouncing his “suburban prejudice”—
Denying the purity of his hate.
Since then, the metal starfish of fame

Has grown around his head:
Each new opinion mottles the crust,
Already burred and sticky….
Neither words nor silence can

Crack it open—my hands reach in,
Feeling for the face crammed somewhere
Inside: confused, sour, intractable,
Denying me the fullness of revenge.

And so he is pardoned of authority:
He cannot enter this Garden of Enemies
And bear the judgment of my embrace—
The self-annulling reverence demanded by his book.


Yeartime for the Intifada

At dusk, Jerusalem glows like a nursery tale,
windows lit for its lost children.
Other boys and girls play in the alleys—
one tosses a rock straight up for joy

like a firework before it bursts;
tomorrow he’ll heave a brick,
project of his life—

Among the spices on my shelf, this cup of wax:
A Yartzeit candle, for marking a death-day;
which grandparent’s, I forget. Yeartime.
The dictionary gives rhymes for pronouncing it,
Dart site (German)
Court site (Yiddish);
a huddled joke about Aryans and Jews—

The boy throws a rock straight up for joy
(like a missile near Hofburg, aimed at tanks
rolling across its own silo)…tomorrow
his parents will hold his body and weep.
The spirit of man is a candle of God
—says a Proverb. But the boy dreamed
his wick would burn so God could see him….

Nipple, leaking its fuel—
he might caper in the flame this year
if a candle is set, if that
is how his people celebrate their dead.


Poems reprinted from In the Belly (University of Chicago Press, 2018) with permission of the author.



David Gewanter's fourth book of poems is Fort Necessity (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2018). He is co-editor of Robert Lowell: Collected Poems (FSG/Faber,2003). He teaches at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. To read more by this author, see the Summer 2003 issue, Wartime Issue, and Museum Issue.