Poetica Magazine

Poetica Magazine


Kafka on Spinoza Street
     by Mark Elber


I lived on Mendelson Street near the corner of Spinoza

where Kafka’s stray archives emigrated

leaving the stale air of a room in Prague


to find themselves stuffed in shelves and drawers, peeling paint

a flat overrun with street-smart cats.

Closed shutters, an extravagant sun on the streets

where pedestrians speak the language of the Song of Songs.


This is not the parable that burns its own manuscripts

plays solitaire, Russian roulette, or harbors the stings

of a critical father.


If I had time enough, I’d redress our parents’ wounds

settle our nomadic selves whose only homes are itinerant words

and the scar tissue on a circumcised heart



The God of Surprises 

     by Mark Elber



slipped loose at the shoveling

at the slow sliding

down cheeks

earth landing on the wooden casket


I gripped a shovel’s neck

dropping its steel-cold handfuls

into the gaping ground

soil swallowing the past


the God of surprises woke me early

splashing me with sunlight

and an absence a father once filled

a voice I can’t retrieve, advice I couldn’t heed

a love too often camouflaged in conflict


those party photos peopled by the dead

where smiles and toasts “to life” called across a table

a hall filled with song, laughter, loud talk in Polish mixed with Yiddish


who would guess how they were orphaned,

what will propelled them to walk on

with hope buried alive all around them


they could not plaster over the fissures in the façade

undo the wars that forged them

the mass graves, the smoke and ash that is a birthright

I pass on second-hand


my son must sense something imported from Poland

beneath my borough of Queens English

an undertone of exile

God stunned silent