The Bowl and Nightshade

Steven Van Pelt

The Bowl

To old men who stumble
onto the fiery plain

pity be given. Hold
out your bowl

here’s lettuce
a radish.

Remember to water at dusk
feeding the roots.

View your fingers.
They’re thickening.

Do not fear. Your weakness
is noted

but there is no reprieve.
This is a palace

for young men.
Behold them dancing

breath by breath.
We desire hardness

and tender skin.
Weep not. A place is reserved,

a garden. Pluck
weeds by their roots,

then bury. Before
the sun haul

water. All
will be well.


How Lazarus would have rejoiced,
or did he discover his return
jarring, his reputation for resurrection
thwarting intimacy, rendering dialogue
absurd. We sleep

so deeply, with such malefic
pleasure, its disruption
is grating – to awaken into desire
and discontentment. To become

a root without a branch, blossoms
long forgotten, to slip
into absence, lagoons of slumber,
folds of stillness.

Steven Van Pelt

Steven Van Pelt began writing poetry as an early adolescent. After receiving a BA in English from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he was accepted into the poetry division of the writing program at San Francisco State. He continued to write poetry, teaching in the NYC public school system for 20 years, specializing in literacy.

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