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Henry Israeli


Creation Myth Number One


In the House of Abandoned Children a boy leans over to watch a spider wrap a fly, a fragile gift. There is a tenderness here not unlike mothering, a caring in the way the handless arms turn the prey round and round, wrapping it in varying diagonal threads until it becomes a swaddled white ball. In hooked mandibles the spider holds the trophy up over her head. For the spider, the boy's face is a planet or god, a blessing. The boy, bored now, pinches the spider between thumb and forefinger-how its milky brain pops out! Bad Mommy, says the boy, unwrapping the fly from its silky casing. The fly vomits, then flits and buzzes about the boy's ears. Mad with disillusion and regret, the boy climbs to the roof and leaps. To his amazement he rises upward, the house shrinking beneath him. Funny, he thinks, from here the House of Abandoned Children looks so, so.... He reaches down and crushes it with one little twist of his thumb, its light bursting out to fill the vastness of the night sky with stars. 


What I Called For


There's a rat scuttling beneath my ribcage looking for scraps of you. 


There's a single butterfly wing fluttering in the palm of my hand.


There's a table, newly built, with your voice varnished beneath it. 


There's a thorn that I kiss when I want to hear my favorite song.


There's no such thing as crime, but there are dogs trying to break the laws

   of gravity. 


There's a date tree that grows underwater, and a kind of ballet that only

   sleepwalkers can see.


There's a scalpel so sharp it cuts between thoughts. 


There's a mirror that reflects only what it wants to.


There is an ocean that tames children's hearts by holding onto their feet. 


There is a hat that keeps the sky afloat above me.


There are tufts of hair that grow from the letters in this book. 


There is a single word that captures everything I could ever despise.


There is someone swimming against the current, tirelessly fighting

    the waves, beneath a white cottage on a hillside,


There is a bed sheet roiling, fog atop two restless bodies.

-from Praying to the Black Cat

BIO: Henry Israeli's books include New Messiahs (Four Way Books: 2002) and Praying to the Black Cat (Del Sol: 2010) and, in translation, Fresco: the Selected Poetry of Luljeta Lleshanaku (New Directions: 2002) and Child of Nature (New Directions: 2010). He has been awarded fellowship grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Canada Council on the Arts, and elsewhere. His poetry and translations have appeared in numerous journals, including American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, Grand Street, Quarterly West, Tin House, Fence, Verse as well as several anthologies. Henry Israeli is also the founder and editor of Saturnalia Books. He lives outside of Philadelphia with his wife and daughters.

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