The Poor in Spirit AND The Song of the Angry Nihilist

Gleaners by Jean-François Millet


by Jeffrey Burghauser (January 2022)

[1] The Poor in Spirit

Hoshi’ah-nah![1] They are most terribly poor
Who find their existence an instrument like
The Serbian gusle, the sruti box, or
Tanpura, on which Virtuosity (strike
Or pluck howsoever you will) will detect,
Alas, preconditions inimical to
All possible, even the most indirect,
Expression. There’s only so much She can do.

Hoshi’ah-nah! They are most terribly poor
Who find the contusive (as if a claw’s clutch
Had just been surrendered) & dismally sore
Locale at their core more substantial than such
Numeric imbalances as interpose
Between the fat, deckle-edged, accolade-brined
Translations of Dante’s Inferno, and those
Prepared of the two other volumes, combined.

Salvation is like some illustrious, plea-
Green, treaty-protected Apulian lime
Produced by a country that’s harrowingly,
Profoundly specific, and, at the same time,
Quite radically distant. However, this odd
Land only exists in adorable lore.
To build it requires prosperity. God
(Hoshi’ah-nah!) bless the most terribly poor.

[2] The Song of the Angry Nihilist

Listen. When I was a kid
Back where my grief is begot,
I was familiar (not
Friendly) with this little yid

Fully possessed of the pride
Joyful credulity does.
Since he was earless, there was
Nowhere for secrets to hide.

This adolescent enjoyed
Dancing as toddlers enjoy
Barbequed drumsticks. The boy
Pounded the stuff of the Void.

Every cryptically sick
Twist was contingent & chanced,
Artlessly solemn. He danced
Like a retarded muzhik.

Sadly, I haven’t a flake
Of the ethereal sense
Shown by this antic-intense,
Twitching dysgenic mistake.

There is no Secret. Concussed
Past the discretion of Grace,
Even the Firmament’s face
Twists with a drunken disgust.

Under it, fences are en-
Feebled by larva-cool rot,
Slack as the notion I’m not
Better than most other men.

[1] Hebrew.“Save, I pray!”, Anglicized as “hosanna.”


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Jeffrey Burghauser is a teacher in Columbus, OH. He was educated at SUNY-Buffalo and the University of Leeds. He currently studies the five-string banjo with a focus on pre-WWII picking styles. A former artist-in-residence at the Arad Arts Project (Israel), his poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Appalachian Journal, Fearsome Critters, Iceview, Lehrhaus, and New English Review. Jeffrey’s book-length collections are available on Amazon, and his website is www.jeffreyburghauser.com.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast