The Fathers

Jon Silkin

A dog-lion’s haunched triangular fury
guards the dead. He says, ‘several things:

first I bite, then in death I guard you.’
‘Besides, I don’t want it,’ I said. ‘Then forgive me.’

‘I’ll guard my own death,’ I say. So then
he bites me. Meanwhile a little swooning

in the blood. I tell this dental fool,
‘I am the right, and fierce creature,

the insects gnaw my veins, my newly rived flesh,
I find the Jew in the scrolls, I nourish him,’

and I dispossess him like a father.

It is the crime: I lay two sandals down

as if it were my mind, its occupancy
for the foot that shudders fitting into it.

It is that gentlest act, I was given.
Shall I be nourished, in my giving?

Hearing a great beast cry,
I am called to account.