Three poems from “Words on the Street” by Anna Rabinowitz

Sheila Margaret Motton Book Award, selected by Jennifer Militello
Winning Poet: Anna Rabinowitz, Words on the Street



Torn by worn-thin profits stitched to
                                                                      the excess access of the brilliantly clothed

          when Greed
                    was our national pass-time

Of Purchase, Plenty fashioned The Holy Scripture

          a clutch of lust bespoke Currency
          trapuntoed with gold,
                                                  stockpiles of Excel sheets dense with deceit

Unbridled riches galloped the streets
Rabid appetites hungered ceaselessly

We were helpless
We wrung our liquid hands


                                                            This Time was the Time the Future

                              undreamed itself

Our leaders declared

                                                : THE END OF PENDING

Infants hugged their afterbirths

Children, like troublesome details, were marooned
          within gaps of being with nowhere to turn

Adults counted their leg-lifts, folded up
                                                                                and plunged to the sea

Ever on its way, language dispatched well-worn
                                                            slogans to refresh the old finery

The official Wampum, streaming falsehoods and cant

Scavenged for needles, thread, insider seams, scraps to patch
                                                  frayed cloaks unraveled by Crave

Our bodies once gravid with Eros and Be
now Bodies Prosthetic, bewitched by Procure and Amass


                                                  out                                                  out                                        rage
                                                  day and night
                                                  we had ignored the barbarian

                              gross, groping, gaudy, green-eyed Greed

day and night                                                            fair game

                              we played the game

          too late                                        Rage                                                            too late

Plenty neither satisfied
                                                                                          nor derailed the Great Reckon

                    Time out                                        it’s time                                        this time

                                                  WHERE                              TIME




…O belly, O stinking bag filed with dung and corruption.
At either end of thee, foul is the sound…
                                                                                                    Spawner of Sin

          Gula, voluminous voluptuary, never gets her fill

Too soon, too delicately, too expensively, too greedily,

                                                                TOO MUCH

                                                                                                    Spawner of Pride

Haggler, tippler, intriguer of feast


Be not among winebibbers: among riotous eaters of flesh. For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

                                                                                                    Spawner of Sloth

Gula,* worn by hungers

Fullness of bread
          neither sates
                                        nor placates
                                                  nor abates

Food and drink, with thee she schemes to live

                              Crapulous and unfulfilled

Discharge, phlegm, mucus running from the nose, hiccups, vomiting and violent belching…The increase in luxury is nothing but the increase in excrement.

                                                                                                    Spawner of Greed

And like a Crane his necke was long and fine,
With which he swallowed up excessive feast.

                                                                                                    Spawner of Lust

Flesh made safe

                              Death tied to the stake

Gula plays hostess at tables laden to groan


GREETINGS!                   WELCOME!                   TAKE A SEAT!



                                        Break bread with malignant maggots
                                                                      gnats and flies


                                                  Beef gleams in the feast’s corpulent dusk

                                                                     trout bathe in béchamel

                                                            succulent hens bask in béarnaise

                              pots de crème                   triple crème                   crème Anglaise

                                                  legs of lamb adorned with mint rosettes

                                                  pork roasts recline on polenta cakes

                                                            crustaceans wade in bouillabaisse

                              stuffed tongues                   boned hams                   breasts of veal

                              tureens of consommé                   bordeaux and beaujolais

                                                  sausage ropes coiled like salacious snakes



                                                            SAY GRACE





Father, is it because there was nothing
                    to combat your desire to lie down

                    because we couldn’t render you
less spent by the relentless
                    drone of duplicate days,

because only an infrequent
                    visitor or a brief interlude
at the radio for the latest news
                    could distract you from submission

as you mounted the soft mound
of your bed and sank into sleep

Is that why
I misremember
                                        some years
remember not at all

the anniversary of the day
you curdled in the dry silt
                                                  of flesh

archived forever in the want,
                    the lascivious, lustful
want, the insatiable succubus
                    that had pursued and
                                                            finally seduced you

What was it — that lovemaking,
                                                  that invincible consumption

a search for a splendor nowhere to be found

                    a pose repeated and renewed
                              in the ineffable
posture of diurnal sleep

                    a rehearsal for death

                    a ploy to gain entry
                              sooner than assigned
to the wickless night

                    How could we, —
                    at five, at eight, at thirteen, —

invade the ur-nuptial bed
                    how make our presence felt
our need known

This morning when the grackles arrived
I lit the Yahrzeit candle, a week late this time

                    and as it puddled in the glass
observed the raucous, chattering birds

Father, they apprentice themselves to survival
clutch their perches, contort
their heads into impossible arcs
                    to snatch seeds from the feeder
                              incessantly peck and explore the garden

From a distance they appear jet black
But if you take a closer look
They glitter in navigable light—
blue to purple, green to bronze,
a blaze of golden eyes.


Anna Rabinowitz
Anna Rabinowitz is an NEA poetry fellow and librettist. Her fifth volume of poetry is Words On the Street. Two previous volumes, Darkling and The Wanton Sublime were re-visioned as a chamber opera and an operatic monodrama, respectively. Darkling has been translated and published in German. Anna is now creating a theater piece based on Words on the Street.