Lararium – a poem by Michael Gessner


Of the gods,

the panoply of them,
there is one, a companion
to all others, a sense within,
the presence of the good,

in those I have known, 
gratitude itself, the murmuring
innocence of wonder
in the naming of the dead,

the list I’ve made and read
before sleep, the tutelary gods
of the house of my body, those
who have done for me some sound good,

making their best moments mine,
a kindness in the service
of that companion presence
now before me before sleep—

     The colonel who saved me from butchery,
     the teacher who clothed me in dignity
     for dignity’s sake, the cousin who left 
     his kindness, the acceptance of all things, 
     the writer-mentor who was herself
     every inspiration, a friend wronged 
     by birth and tormented by the acts
     of those he rose above.

                       * * *
Longing is everywhere,
it is itself on its knees,
it is here tonight in the arms
of an armless body, an unknown lover.

I dream of them, the others, they never part,
a living vivarium, Apollo’s heart.

Michael Gessner has authored 14 books of poetry and prose. His most recent is Nightshades, (2022). His poems have been included in, or are forthcoming from, Arlington Literary Journal, The French Literary Review, La Citta Immaginaria, North American Review, (finalist for the James Hearst Poetry Award,) and The Wallace Stevens Journal. A voting member of the National Book Critics Circle, his reviews may be found in NAR, Jacket2, The Edgar Allan Poe Review, and The Kenyon Review. For additional information:

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