Theodicy
—Bellow’s Massacre at Dinant and The German’s Arrive

The clergy raise
their gooseneck
arms to the God

who wouldn’t soften
the steel of bayonets
while the dust clouds

from German boots
through the next town
piggyback the countryside.

The butcher holds his wife
to his chest like a side of beef
while an old woman

pitchforks her hands,
her husband lacing his
into a blindfold.

The couple on the floor
next to me splice
their fingers

in loose knots,
arms contracting
and dilating like mouths

after climax
or before death.
On the canvas

above the couple’s mingling,
the Belgian boy’s severed
hand hitchhikes

on the ground
that could be
a threshing floor,

centuries-old
grain lodged in the cracks
like mortar joints,

while a German soldier
nooses him with an elbow.
The smoke heaves

and purls from rooftops
like David dancing
in a rage after Uzzah

laid hands on the jostled Ark
and God smote him
for David’s sin.

 
 

Re-Stroke I
—Balthus’ Nude Before a Mirror

The perennials must be on fire
outside, the dahlias, jonquils.

The lavender water pitcher
must have been an afterthought,
its somewhat existence

not even worth a reflection:
I want her to snap off its handle

and slip it over her veiny wrist
like a Bakelite bracelet.
I want to re-stroke the canvas,

harden that afterthought
and place it in her hands

so she can toss it out
the open window
where Balthus crouches.

 
 

Photo by lena_lozhkina

Adam Vines

ADAM VINES is an assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is editor of Birmingham Poetry Review and director of the English Honors Program. He has published poems in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Southwest Review, The Literary Review, The Hopkins Review, Barrow Street, Five Points, Measure, 32 Poems, among others. He is the author of Out of Speech (LSU Press, 2018) and The Coal Life (U of Arkansas P, 2012) and coauthor of Day Kink (Unicorn Press, 2018) and According to Discretion (Unicorn Press, 2015). During the summers, he is on staff at The Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

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