Amy Gerstler


roams the earth
judgmental and zealous
his guts rubble
his beard a pale exhalation
a version of Elijah
(how we like to taste his name!)
appears in the Q’ran
and on this particular holiday
Elijah’s invited inside
Jews’ doors propped open
cups of wine placed
on crocheted tablecloths
for his spirit to drink
tonight Elijah prowls the house
of a man widowed twice
rifles the sleeping family’s
belongings: letters and bills
schoolbooks and shoes
he examines their trash
coffee grounds orange peels
an empty band aid tin
the widower and sons snore
their dog lifts her head
drums her tail and smiles at Elijah
the youngest boy wakes convinced
something sat astride him all night
whispering about being fed
by ravens in a cave
when the boy rises he feels sick
as if an organ had been removed
while he slept but after some milk
after worried inquiries from dad
the boy shakes off his malaise
when he thinks no one is looking
the widower chugs Elijah’s wine
no sense letting it go to waste
it tastes like dirt from the cellar floor
like tree bark like the inside
of a woman’s mouth
Elijah lived a mysterious life
raised the dead
brought fire from the sky
foretold people’s fates
was taken up in a whirlwind
and reached the quiet stars
whose weariness it is said
pervades all creation
AMY GERSTLER’s most recent books of poetry include Dearest Creature, Ghost Girl, Medicine, and Crown of Weeds. Her book of poems Bitter Angel received a National Book Critics’ Circle Award in 1991. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. These include The New Yorker, Poetry, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, several volumes of Best American Poetry, and The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry. She teaches at University of California at Irvine.

Read more by Amy Gerstler:

Another poem in B O D Y
Many poems, audio and other pieces at The Poetry Foundation