A Prayer in Two Thousand Seventeen
God, I am sick and my blood counts low.
I sleep ten hours, and still feel slow.
My son pretends he’s fine, worries always,
says he’ll never be happy once I die.
I talk to you, God, the way I was taught,
vary the words so you don’t get bored.
Despite others’ groaned and shouted prayers,
don’t forget my son, who hates aloneness.
Icons hang from my wall, are propped on shelves.
Sometimes I take the gold and dark wood
image of your mother and hold her against my skin.
I ask her, protect my son, who loses his jackets.
I know that the world’s great harm—
bombings, street shootings, earthquakes—
provoke your immediate alarm.
Still, don’t ignore a child who fears growing mad.
You who love the poor and the orphan,
punish our sins: our registration lists, lethal
injections, deportations. I will forgive you
my early death. But my son, Lord, my son.
After Israel Emiot
Here's why I believe that indeed yes, a young woman in Italy once
Conversed at length with the One Whom No Name Can Encompass
In the year 1375 or so, by our calendar, although God knows which
Calendar the One goes by. He called her dearest daughter, you see?
That doesn't happen unless he really is a father. That's the real deal.
There's a fury of love for your kid, a tumult of feeling for which our
Words are flimsy. Like our words for the One. Sometimes I pretend
Not to hear you, he said to her, But I do hear you. Boy, I know these
Words. Never lower your voice in crying out to me, he says--never
Stop knocking at the door. I know this guy. He's a dad. His children
Drive him nuts and he would die for them without hesitation. This is
What I try to say to people when they say what's with the whole guy
On the cross thing, man, that's macabre, that's sick, you people look
At a guy dying of torture every day, you hang Him in your churches
And houses and offices, you carry a dying guy in your pocket, that's
Just weird, and I try to say he's a dad. He volunteered. You'd do the
Same for your kids. Sure He grumbled about it, in the garden. I have
Stomped down to the laundry room to snarl and throw shoes around.
But I go back upstairs because I love them more than I could explain.
They drive you nuts but yes you would die for them. I know this guy.
Among these dark ambitions,
I wander, not ready for the light
plain to see everywhere,
eager to be shared here
and with everyone. But my soul
is a cellar dweller, a strange root
vegetable—pale and dirty—
so I’ll rest under this thick soot
until the intricate shade
of the future descends
and envelopes everything.
Are We Done Yet
When our daughter was four,
we lit Chanukah candles atop
the Lane record cabinet, our first
purchase as a married couple.
In our new home we could look
out the window at the house below.
The Todds’ Christmas tree stood
in their den, where lights of every color
led to a star on top that seemed
to descend directly from Heaven.
We chanted our prayers,
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu,
melekh ha’olam, allowed Karen
to hold the shamash—the kindling
candle—for her first time, hustled Katey
to the other side of the room lest she
light up her pajamas. Our ritual complete,
we gifted them: a doll, a book, matching
jumpers, then sang songs from preschool.
Dinner, I told everyone, the greasy
latkes already blackened at the edges
as they sat in oil on the new gold
General Electric range.
Wait, Mommy, I have a question,
Karen said, what’s that in the window
over there? I tell her it’s a Christmas tree.
Why don’t we have a Christmas tree?
Because we’re Jewish, I said. She wanted
to know then, before eating the
brisket cut into small pieces so she
wouldn’t choke, before crunching
the latkes, now on the edge of soggy,
When will we be finished being Jewish?
“A prolific poet, printer, publisher and painter of sacred and secular icons, Mr. Oresick celebrated and epitomized the unflagging work ethic that characterized so many Western Pennsylvania immigrants." --Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“His life overflowed with faith and art, and, in fact, was a nexus of the two.” --Jake Oresick, son and writer
Most recent collection of poems:
Oresick, Peter. Iconoscope: New and Selected Poems (U of Pittsburgh P, 2015)
Forthcoming in Oct 2016 with Carnegie Mellon UP:
a collection of Willa Cather’s 10 Pittsburgh Stories, edited by Peter Oresick