Ramadan

by Bernard Henrie
The Waters
First Place, July 2015
Judged by C. Wade Bentley


They shot a naked man howling in a barricaded house.
He clipped his lawn into the night skilled as a doctor
on graveyard shift putting in stitches.

But I mind my own business, box a roast beef sandwich
at the senior lunch and spend the evening in my bathrobe,
my wasp thin computer overheated on my lap.

Letters to my dead wife faithful as the Jeddah lighthouse,
her face full of rupees, the stern look her eyes gave out
and only sixteen years old.

Summer tans me to the color of an Indian Sepoy.
I drink Bigelow teas while smoking Churchman No 1
cigarettes.

I am in the rag trade with other Indian Jews like myself,
my secondhand racks full of unwanted suits for men.
I observe Passover from a window of the 93 bus.

Oh naked man, howling man shot dead I mourn
your emerald passage and ask both India and Pakistan
to hold their fire for a single rotation of the moon.


Sometimes detail, even fresh and wonderful sensory detail, can be simply dumped on readers to no apparent purpose. In this poem, however, the details flesh-out the speaker’s life to such an extent and in so few lines that, by the end of the poem, the poet has created that crucial parallel, a mirror we can hold up to the dead man. There are deeper religious and geopolitical threads, here, but I am most taken by the concreteness of “secondhand racks full of unwanted suits for men,” and “box a roast beef sandwich/ at the senior lunch.” --C. Wade Bentley

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