2008: David Caplan, “Beit Midrash”

One room to learn and pray in,
both forms of argument. A sink in the hall,
a wall busy with hats, boys quote sages,

claim and counterclaim sung like riddles.
Impossible to hear a single voice, a conclusion
raised from the tiny print.

A pond a mile from the Atlantic,
last year’s neighbors raced miniature yachts,
the cow lily a local watercolorist sketched

barely disturbed. Behind us,
a mudflat shivered into the bay
as if it remembered the island,

remembered what it would not share.
Ana, listen to the noise
the boys make, three languages

forked in one thought: The timid
cannot learn and the impatient cannot teach.
Tidewater hurrying across sand,

a catamaran heeled to keep
from toppling, one pontoon
windward in the air, the other

balanced in its reflection.

About David Caplan

Professor David Caplan (English Department, Ohio Wesleyan University) specializes in twentieth- and twentieth-first century American literature. His scholarly interests include verse form and contemporary poetry. He has published Questions of Possibility: Contemporary Poetry and Poetic Form (Oxford University Press 2004; paperback 2006) and Poetic Form: An Introduction (Longman, 2006). He serves as a contributing editor to the Virginia Quarterly Review and an affiliated researcher (Chercheur Affili’) at the Centre Interdisciplinaire de Po’tique Appliqu’e at the University of Li’ge where he was a Fulbright lecturer. His current projects include Rhyme’s Challenge (under contract to Oxford University Press) and In the World He Created According to His Will (poems) (forthcoming, the University of Georgia Press / VQR Poetry Series).  In 2008-09 he will be a Poetics Fellow at Emory University’s Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry.