1I woke up from marrying my father;the window let in a little streetlamp shine.None of us knew what time it was.The streetlamp thought three. The boythought morning, and started to wake.I laughed. We returned to sleep slowly,mouth to ear, and the marriages continued. 2I was writing a poem when a boy blew upand my fingers stopped on "matching boots."Nobody has company now; what's onelost body that was warm in my bed,quilting a night of bad weddings? 3I try to stay in sleepwhere there is at least my body.My temporary teeth, his neat hands,an argument, a draft.Waking I say I musthave imagined the weddings.These pageants, these men, these buildings—they go brightly on without me.
“Conduct” from THE KNIVES WE NEED: by Nava EtShalom.
Published by Carnegie Mellon University Press February 27th, 2021.
Copyright © 2021 by Nava EtShalom.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Nava EtShalom’s poetry has appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Believer, Boston Review, and elsewhere. Her work has won 92Y’s Discovery Poetry Contest, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, and awards from the Academy of American Poets. She lives in Philadelphia and moves through crip time. This is her first book.
"Hauntingly original, this spare but rich collection weaves an emotionally complex tapestry that includes bits of history and Biblical tradition as well as fragments of our calamitous present. Moving by suggestion and association rather than linear narrative or argument, Nava EtShalom crafts subtle coherence from beautifully singing lines and constantly surprising language."
"'I never made anything / but a concession to thunder,' writes Nava EtShalom. Her poem-making in The Knives We Need is urgent, spare, passionate, mysterious. Hers is a voice of prophecy reverberating with the thunder of old patriarchal sins, the Binding of Isaac, stolen land, suicide, mourning, a saving disobedience. These wise, beautiful poems count gaps and gashes, and from the fracture, draw new wholeness, a healing art."