When the Hatted Man passed through our gates,
his stovepipe’s crown looked like the chimney
of our synagogue (when viewed from the tree line
past town). His jacket was blacker than what I see
when I imagine piano keys. We gathered wherever
he chose to stand: by Math-Less Mendel’s shop
where one leaves with fresh loaves in hand
and extra zlotys in the pockets; the town square
where Silent Samson, our young (but tongueless)
Macabee, once made torch-armed Cossacks flee
across the bridge by shaking his fist. Where he chased
along the riverbank with wheels of cheese
to invite them to his mother’s house for porridge.
(He really is, as if according to those illustrations of us
all nose!) But yes, we clung to the Hatted-Man
like our mud to leather boots. Although, he seemed
at times to speak only retenish. He told us once
he sold tools that built houses out of mist.
We said to him, Dear friend, we will not call you ‘mad,’
since that would be uncivilized. He replied
by reaching into his hat and pulling out a claw hammer
wrapped in sackcloth. When the Hatted-Man
began swinging as if at wind, Mordecai the Moron
went home to nail wall-plates. I, son of David
the Dimwit, schlepped off to find a ladder.
Whether call for help or the mind’s last call
to the flesh, your instructions are the same:
in gutters or clawfoot bathtubs, build it.
Gild with plastic lids and gauze. Let merchants
emerge from every stall in the markets
lining your synapses to take their turns
beating back the robed intruder who smells
like wilderness and myrrh. Know anyone
with a prescription-grade diagnosis
and a garden hose can play Messiah.
If the covenant comes from an orange
bottle, flood it. Streams of ants, converted
to the coven of your defunct codons,
will stream from mud. Chew new rules onto stones.
Benjamin Goldberg’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in POETRY, Blackbird, TriQuarterly, West Branch, Verse Daily, Best New Poets 2014, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife outside Washington, D.C.
Copyright 2014 Anthropoid.co.