Avatar Review
Issue 13

Poetry: Joshua Daniel Edwin


There is a dybbuk in your ear.
He’s hiding there, like a skink
behind a palm frond, ducking
all the exorcisms we chant up.
He’s slimy as an old rat’s tail,

and his singing drowns my voice
right out, upsets the frequency
to which your forks are tuned.
He’s a lasso looped around your dial,
selecting the signal you’ll bring in,
a ghost hand slinking between curtains,
a darkness creeping under doorways
like a stain. The sly usurper shoots

a whisper through your ear canal
as you walk the subway platform.
His sinuous voice transforms the trains’
anarchic clatter to a siren soundtrack,
he sings dive in, kiss the reef of rails,
leap once and you’ll be free,
how your feet must sting, mermaid-to-be.


The slab that bears my mother’s name is slick
and bright with autumn rain, its face
upturned like a questioning child.
Stones large and small surround the bronze plate
in a crooked frame. Dad explains: he placed
the egg-sized stones beside white pebbles
he leaves for my sister and me. Our neighbors,
my mother’s closest friends, have brought
their children, who leave rocks like clenched fists,
weighing down the corners against the wind.

Hunched together beneath one umbrella,
Dad and I intone the Kaddish,
our jacket shoulders slowly darkening,
our voices floating on pearl-string
clouds of steam, apparitions fleeing.
After the prayer we stand
above the grave, watch rain collect
between the letters of her name,
till Dad says we have to go,
your sister has a flight to catch.


The sad thing is: I don’t remember.
The visitors come every night
from some more vivid world,
blood rich, close focused, stage lit,
as peripheral as my heel,
while the memories that bear them,
rinsed slate gray with sleep-tinged light,
are merely silhouetted shadows,
guests at a party that I glimpse
through parted curtains as I drive by.
When I go, so go the memories of her.

Time, a queenless hive of bees,
somehow finds a hole, or makes one,
to breach the screen,
and stings and buzzes endlessly,
a drone I hear even in sleep.


Tanizaki’s Naomi, that reckless seal,
is always laced with dew and sleep-heat,
forever waking late and stretching
her pearly little arms.
She even smokes in bed,
waiting out the morning
in a white cloud.

Her name’s three syllables:
like three men in a bed,
waiting, watching her
slip into her robe.

In the robe and nothing else,
kneeling with legs spread,
she lets the ivory moonlight
knife across her thigh,
slit the robe, and attract six eyes.
The blade presses, stretching
across two white legs,
two suddenly bare shoulders,
six widened eyes,
and the flame of a cigarette
sparking in the dark room.