Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 4
Fall 2011

[Two Poems]

Gary Fincke

The Flurry

Some insects are generated spontaneously
out of dew falling on leaves…others grow
in decaying mud or dung.

—Aristotle, The History of Animals
Two boys made a stew of leftover
cafeteria food, bits of bread
and fruit, filling a condiment cup
and sliding it into the hollow
of a spill-stained table leg.
This was biology, waiting 
a week to see, eating above 
that brew without disturbing 
the fussy demands of science.

This was impatience, the seventh day,
bolting sandwiches and swilling milk
before they raised that table
while their small desserts stayed sealed.
And when they nudged that tiny womb 
into the light so they could observe 
the fine hair of mold and whatever else 
their recipe grew with darkness,
time, and heat, a flurry of fruit flies 
lifted from that soggy cup 
as if they’d fathered them with food.  

The newly born rose and dispersed, 
sons and daughters disappearing 
among three hundred students 
before those boys stood, giddy,
and hurried into the hall,
missionaries carrying their cakes 
like inexhaustible offerings.


The Odds

Sometimes they’re determined by the small size
Of the well-protected space at the base
Of the skull where bone ends at the inward 
Curve for lessened chance, and yet this student,
In falling, struck that spot so perfectly
Upon the stone edge of a step she died,
A young woman who wrote free-verse poems, 
One of which she’d published the week before.

For hours, I recreated that tumble.
For longer, I imagined her parents 
Who had driven from New Jersey, who were 
Staying at the president’s spacious house
And would look at me, so dreadful with grief
That their expressions would curse me with guilt.
There was no way to dress for the service
Without concentrating on what horrors
Happen constantly. My one dark suit seemed
Too light; the pattern in my charcoal tie
Was a sign of indifference and health.

A pastor demanded calling upon
The mystery of hope. I stood to make
Three minutes of allusions to brilliance,
Unashamed of my brief embellishments.
Her parents, afterwards, spoke haltingly,
Our small conversation complicated
So much by intricacies of absence
That the mother wrapped her arms around me,
The odds of that moment nearly buckling 
My knees. And yes, I steadied my posture
By holding that woman, letting her sob 
Into my shoulder, hearing the mourners 
Go so silent they could have been straining
To hear which words I breathed into her ear.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury