Art By Lya Finston
How close the villain is to the harp!
Two vowels separate them, just as two small
letters separate the harp from the generous.
Of course no one learns languages like this,
Because it’s considered wrong, ridiculous,
But why that is – that’s what I want to know.
Yes the villain can be as mesmerizing as the harp,
Yes evil can seem generous, in clever disguise. Yes all
of them have their own rhythms, and all are close:
Oh who has not felt the tingling of mischief and crime,
sweet music of generosity and still, the lingering pluck
of am-I-evil, am-I-bad-beneath-it-all?
I am giving and villainous and musical.
In my body I carry clarity and crime and the harp.
From Wolf Lamb Bomb, copyright 2021 by Aviya Kushner. Reprinted by permission of Orison Books, Inc. www.orisonbooks.com
Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking home in New York. She is the author of Wolf Lamb Bomb (Orison Books, 2021), winner of The Chicago Review of Books Award in Poetry, a New York Times New & Noteworthy selection, and Foreword INDIES Finalist; and The Grammar of God (Spiegel & Grau, 2015), a National Jewish Book Award Finalist and Sami Rohr Prize Finalist. She is The Forward’s language columnist and a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts fellow in translation.