shylock

1.
A strange rose he is: no petals, all thorns.
No daring rabbi set this golem’s heart a-ticking.
Christian scorn

and English iambs did. Sticking
to his text is all any God asks
of him. (Curse this heart, this false organ of ink, this kicking

in his chest.) He picks up a leering long-nosed mask;
puts it on. Fireworks mar the newborn
night. Curse these young men. Fie on these masques.

2.
Who was he in his youth?
A hand outstretched, reaching for Leah. A bawdy
tale of David and Jonathan (told, forsooth,

at dinner with a red-faced zealot). His garments neither gaudy
nor threadbare. Some think him a stage freak,
a lunatic sprung from a pagan quill. A stranger in a bruised body.

He laughs when Christians talk of the meek.
When his brothers beg him to pipe down he snarls, A tooth for a tooth.
At home, Leah lights candles week after week.

3.
Shylock the Christian weeps into his hands.
His bent frame heaves.
Act Five is winding down: wives stand

triumphant before bewildered husbands. (Alone, Antonio leaves.)
Tomorrow is Sunday. First catechism. How
unthriftily he grieves.

Leah, in your last illness, I still kissed your feverish brow –
do you remember? Come back. Help me understand
why I’m still alive. Jessica’s married now.

*

published in the 2021 sparkipoemi anthology