Jane Zwart: “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin”
MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN
We run the humidifier, and my sons run
up and down the stairs carrying its fog
in jars and in boxes, in anything with a lid
hinged and fitted to suit their purpose:
magic. We, their parents, ooh at the mist
that rises from a procession of containers
and we hold in our mouths the silk
of all the other sad syllables knotted in wait
like the torrents of scarves mimes vomit:
magic. We shut the voices inside the radio—
underlying conditions, shortness of breath—
and I run to a rise where the street tacks north.
The houses on this street’s far side sit, not flush
to the curb but square to an unseen windrose,
white boxes stacked in their lots, each set down
split-seconds of arc closer to the equator
than its neighbor to the east, and low in the west
the sun hits the houses’ blind sides, which look—
the five of them—like a hand of poker fanned
in the grip of a god, the cards blank.
Well, there are orders of revelation.
In movies those who hunt for treasure
sometimes find what they are looking for
when the sun tunnels through a series of lenses
that the hero’s fit into newels and cave windows
but that does not disqualify as writing on a wall
late sunlight slapped against aluminum siding.
Numbered, numbered, weighed, divided
and suddenly I know that I cannot pray for magic;
know I cannot say God, my sons carry dewdrops in caskets
and urns; let the air in their lungs last forever; know
the underlying condition: it’s shortness of breath.
Jane Zwart has had poems accepted by Poetry, TriQuarterly, Rattle, Cincinnati Review, and Ploughshares, as well as other journals and magazines.