Poetry
12.1 / FALL / WINTER 2016

SESTINA FOR MY FATHER’S SEDER PLATE

Spectre scent, charoset, the year I break my father’s seder plate
the April air is nuts, wine, cut sweet date
Passover from my calendar like I don’t remember
how he built a house of charoset, the lifting smell
that held high his roof. I hold this memory in exile,
with both hands, soft hands, hands to hold up a temple of eggs

stacked on a seder plate. The year I let the eggs
break, my father worries I have too much on my plate.
He wonders at the tongue that voices my exile.
He wonders how I could strip away the date
and cast the stone carelessly aside, the smell
of the new growing palm. He needs me to remember

him in the names of my children, but I don’t remember
the name of my great grandparents. No one does now. Another egg
crushed in clumsy rush, exodus. I imagine a smokehorse smell,
pogrom forcing them through a red sea. No one knows now. Maybe their plates
were safely stacked, packed with silverware. Maybe they both left with a date
in their mouths, sweet on their tongues: the birth of an American son. Exile

is not what you walk into, is not a desert hiding honey and milk. Exile
isn’t where you savor the sweetness of the mortar you make. Remember,
father, that in my mouth I too carry a date.
The first course of seder is the first of shiva. I fill my mouth with eggs
so I can’t say how much I’ll hurt when you die. Father, I could fix the plate
pieces to your face, your kiln-clay heart, mosaic where I place my bitter herbs, my brittle bread, my salt. Smell

my lifting, my building, my aliyah, my mortar smell.
Passover that Moses never made it home, did not die in exile.
Passover that Elijah is still a spectre, we still welcome him to our plate.
Passover when you call to me across our desert of family, “We are lost.” Remember
our steps in the sand, end to end. This cannot fit in a temple, an egg,
this walking is more than waiting, incubating until that date,

forty years hence when I know your age from cutting up dates,
wine, nuts for someone with your name, no longer near enough to smell
charoset, spectre scent. Come, Passover, we have boiled eggs
enough and more for mourning exodus mistaken for exile.
I speak new names into miles of shifting sand that will never remember
my feet, but somewhere they hide an outstretched palm. It will join our seder plate.

 

Dylan Bargteil is a writer, performer, and musician from central Maryland. He lives in Brooklyn, NY, where he hosts a salon series called Worped in his friends’ apartment.

 

 

 


12.1 / FALL / WINTER 2016

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