Poetica Magazine

Poetica Magazine


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