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Michael Heller


Poetry Archive
  Michael Heller
Michael Heller
Michael Heller has published seven volumes of poetry, the most recent being Exigent Futures: New and Selected Poems (Salt Publishing, 2003). A selection of his essays, Uncertain Poetries, has just been published. His memoir, Living Root, was published by the State University of New York Press in the Fall of 2000. Most recently, his libretto for the opera Benjamin, based on the life of the German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin, has been set to music by the composer Ellen Fishman Johnson and performed at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. His critical study, Conviction's Net of Branches: Essays on the Objectivist Poets and Poetry, was published by Southern Illinois University Press. He has been a member of the faculty of NYU's American Language Institute since 1967 and has taught at The Naropa Institute, The New School, San Francisco State, Notre Dame and other universities.

...tone perfect poems—the tone, the scale, note by note, interval by interval—attack on the 'gods of ennui and loneliness.'
–George Oppen

For Uncle Nat



Michael Heller
I'm walking down 20th Street with a friend
When a man beckons to me from the doorway
Of Congregation Zichron Moshe. "May I,"
He says to my companion, "borrow this
Jewish gentleman for a moment?" I follow
The man inside, down the carpeted aisle,
Where at the front, resplendent in
Polished wood and gold, stands
The as yet unopened Ark.

Now the doors slide back, an unfolded
Promissory note, and for a moment,
I stand as one among the necessary ten.
The braided cloth, the silver mounted
On the scrolls, even the green of the palm
Fronds placed about the room, such hope
Which breaks against my unbeliever's life.

So I ask, Nat, may I borrow you, for a moment,
To make a necessary two? Last time we lunched,
Enclaved in a deli, in the dim light, I saw
A bit of my father's face in yours. Not to make
Too much of it, but I know history
Stamps and restamps the Jew; our ways
Are rife with only momentary deliverance.
May I borrow you for a moment, Nat. We'll celebrate
By twos, the world's an Ark. We'll talk in slant,
American accent to code the hidden language of the Word.



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