Two Poems

by Jeffrey Burghauser (May 2019)

The Doll’s House, Sir William Rothenstein, 1899


A Threnody for My Grandfather
Zalman Yaacov ben Leah

Uncles remember I would, a provoked tambourine,

Clumsily run to my grandfather with the delight

Typically stirred by a festival scene.

This was (his eulogist softly submits)

Fitting, since grandpa’s refined-as-rosettes,

Special proximity outlined a festival site.


There is a city established & peopled on my

Substance’s fruitful interior named after you,

Which in turn tenders its name to nearby

Wadis, a species of cyclamen, and

Grandly the battle securing the land

That would accommodate later the city’s debut.


Also named after the city that’s named after you,

Certain peculiar folkways, including the cool,

Levantine tenor inflecting the blue

Cast of the curtain protecting the ark,

Down to the humidly spherical, dark

Melodies used to address the Creator of All.


Custom has rendered it utterly tasteless to brace

Newborns with names of relations who live. But a glade?

Butterfly? Chemical process? A place?

Puzzled with mourning, I saunter the street,

Taken to visit, adore the discrete

Travertine cornerstone laid on the day I was made.


Townsmen, however, uncoiled in groves where the ewe

Sleeps under fig trees that made a disgrace out of me,

Hadn’t a clue that they hadn’t a clue,

Lounging where carob sprays grade into blue

(Certain not even their gravediggers knew)

As to what part of speech “threnody” might even be.

Pietá, William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1876

On Bouguereau’s Pietà

Linen gowns put me in mind of a subtle grey dust

Blown shyly into an atrium so that one might

See a particular shaft of hypothesized light.

Sin isn’t some designation that, lasting as rust,

Fastens to wastefulness taken beyond what is “right”.


Sin is committed when people on nothing’s behalf

Sacrifice even an eyelash on meaningless things.

Women surrendering necklaces, brooches & rings,

Fervid to furnish with substance the cast of a calf,

Moon-lumened, had the right lute strung with all the right strings.


But an elusive un-rightness subverted the sense,

Just as this painting’s effect is elusively fine:

Panoply-Grace in maternity’s form. My benign,

Newly-washed minivan glimmers past dumbly immense

Churches whose names are like those of convenience store wine.


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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 collection, Real Poems, is available on Amazon and his website is

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast


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