from THE BOOK OF FORMER WISDOM by Nicholas Rosenfeld Grider


Glowing lights and pocket lint, sad chores and heavens are not sky, the sky is fire, the sky is permanent, and this is not that, and the sky is also on fire if by on fire you mean alert and oriented, the sky dents you, you run the numbers on half-life and decay, it’s first-order but there’s glowing ln and ex, there’s the ln and ex inside you, your hot microscope, your clean drain

the taxa for you’s busted, celestial court is stomping grounds

[                        ]

sky is sea and noise is noise, you worked hard to become a better avoider

this isn’t prose

it’s not a promise either


Entertainment is not how you stay away, staying away is not how you avoid the night garden’s double spotlight, fields of blue and of the lone green in the system

there’s a system, shifting, it doesn’t have a name

there are three proper names, save one they’re just Hello My Name Is labels, but the old man’s been around, a filthy finger-pointer, an annual ghost

there are no ghosts unless you mean explanations, you change the subject

you get a little cute, everybody laughs and grabs you, it’s not appointment or accusatory, it’s a hybrid of singing and not knowing

[                        ]

younger, you’re still learning how to not fuck up shaking somebody’s hand

the switch flips, the magnitude changes you

the noise is not entirely yours


Angels are neither hierarchical nor concentrate, there isn’t even a ladder, instead there are shoes caked with dollar store glitter, there’s subtext Morpheus and relevant habitats, there’s “kid just get some sleep, you gotta get up in the morning”

Moshe you can trust your fictions when––anyway they’re already here

an architecture you were presented with folds mountains around skyscrapers against black sky, gray sky, crimson/vermillion/scarlet sky, more like maroon but how were you supposed to know

what with blood a rainbow, time-dependent, so maybe the black night against which tall tents loom connotes a lifetime too, not this, not here, but yours, and this is not that

[                        ]

you never even and you haven’t still


God is not a friend of a friend’s malfeasance, or even instead of malfeasance misdirection, or Moshe you weren’t properly conquered by manners or escalation, skipping words in your apologies to cement-brick the gas pedal heading toward unnamable, or you were supposed to be learning a new theory of song

you were supposed to be shoveling, instead you witness Busby Berkeley ravens in cartoon night, you sit in the back row, you juggle concatenation, reprisal and forced fraternity

cartoon Jerusalem, cartoon Mediterranean, volunteering to be quietly errant, a lot of wrinkle gets spent on you but wear the tallis, kid, it’s nice

[                        ]

it’s cocktail hour, the malachim shrug and scratch their noses and talk optics

you saw something else, it might have been a broken forest

a lesson in how the extant not-alive can stay tightly lit


God is not a telephone pole you shimmy up and slap the top of

God is a forest of telephone poles both closer and farther away, God is both closer and farther away, the dust is still cherry red, the burlap blankets are black, or they’re not just blankets they’re also nets, and they snare what, or should you stay home and take off your tie

God is the black blankets in the black Holy of Holies in the new black Temple, not the temple made of words, this new other, and this is not that

God is not portable, angels are not remote controls, angels are not lithe or translucent, angels are not a text, God is not a text

[                        ]

this is not a text

this is not a memory of real or knowable light

Nicholas Rosenfeld Grider is the author of the story collection Misadventure (A Strange Object) and his work has appeared in Caketrain, Conjunctions, DIAGRAM, Guernica, and other publications. He lives in Milwaukee, where he’s a pre-med student. He just got banned for life from his synagogue because his rabbis took the kind of stuff in these poems too literally.