Kafka’s Sisters & The Remains of Old Yeats (2 poems)

Kafka’s Sisters

With thanks I was tubercular and dead
by early summer nineteen twenty-four,
long in the grave with my intensity

before those three sisters rose to follow,
Ellie and Ottla and Valli dragged through
the cattle-car years down to forty-five.

Ellie and Ottla and Valli I sing,
deported to Poland, deported to Łódź
or all of them dead in a shower somewhere,

a sister’s love held by the ankles and wrists
and heaved to the belt and the oven upstairs.
Ellie and Ottla and Valli I sing,

Ellie and Ottla and Valli at home,
the old apartment in Prague with our parents,
young once at home, and exasperated

with my nerves and my need for privacy,
now three girls naked and starved and buried in air,
their prophet brother far away in the earth.

Originally published in the Basil O’Flaherty


The Remains of Old Yeats

The remains of old Yeats fell down and died facing the old Mediterranean
only a few months before the second war,
old sea and old artificer all red with the blood of long memory
—whether plague dead purged from every ocean-tending river,
or just his Sligo or London or Dublin—
the struck bells of private publicity, the gyred words and inevitable tides,
the first of his final resting places flown over by airmen and atrocity
catching every rough scent of the continent, every riven vison of his unleashed,
goddesses called and men at her feet, every scene where poetry should shut up,
every where that poetry blinks and weeps at the uses to which rhythm is put.