The Man in the Cellar

Under the Influence of Moonlight

by Al Gabor



If he stands on a chair,

tilts his head into a cobweb,

the man in the cellar can see

the moon skewered by an antennae,

like a prawn ready for the grill.

Hard to believe

this same suburban moon

makes the oceans blossom into waves.


He stares at the moon,

and thinks about his father,

about the new growth the doctors found.

He holds a feather

left by a grackle

that appeared there yesterday,

leaving runny birdshit

on papers and books,

clawing over keyboards,

flailing against the windows

whenever anyone got near.


The man in the cellar goes back

to the blue screen,

where he tends furrows of light.


God has forgotten me,

Grandpa said.  He was 84.


Every night he saw ghosts.

Grandma prayed with him in Polish.


She was twenty again, carrying their

first child.  While he undid


her long gold braid, she talked of

heaven, clearing the southern fields


for corn, the calf born with a   

tumor where the eye belonged.


One night Aunt Mary found Grandpa outside,

burying teeth pried from his dentures.


It was all I could think about

when I saw his ashen face in the casket:


An old man kneeling in the moonlight,

pushing kernals of teeth into the ground.


Was it an act of penance? Of surrender?

Did he hope for one last harvest--


a flower bright as a comet,

its roots a long pale braid?


Or was it simply this--before something can unfurl skyward,

 it must first be buried?


After dusk darkened the windows,

the grackle disappeared up the lighted

stairs and out the door.


The man stood in the doorway,

his breath becoming opaque,

waiting for the grackle to light

in the bare trees

rooted in the sky.


Published in Cream City Review , Vol 21.2