Home > Journaling the Apocalypse > New Year’s Eve, 1913

New Year’s Eve, 1913

October 20, 2008

Many apocalyptic sects believed the world would end in 1914. Some taught that possessing pictures, “graven images,” violated the second commandment, the punishment: burning in hell rather than enjoying the millennial peace of the righteous. Thus my grandmother’s dilemma.

The other graven images they burned
Thanksgiving Day, buffet of frames and silver
plate drifts God-ward, mercuric vapors, sepia
fragments rising. But Oskar, she keeps back,
he’s featured only when she grips
his sailor-knickered pose—stilted shade
of a first-born, dead and quick to evanesce.

She soothes a finger down the outline
of his jaw, strokes bones where baby softness
scarcely keeps the round. It feels abandon
not to conjure him, blue-eyed. Although she
dreads the certitude of hell, without the
children living now, she’d make millennial
trade-off for clear sight of him.

Last night again the dream of altar rock
so sharp it slices through her swollen gut.
“Ma, where is the lamb for the holocaust?”
In torture she lays him on the pyre—
hope against hope for a ram—
but only the ash of this photograph
she paid for with chickens floats back.

by Lynnel L. Jones

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  1. Kim
    October 21, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Wow. Artistry rises to meet an unusual subject. This poem will stay with me.

  2. Ann
    October 22, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I like the twist on Abraham & Isaac. A decision and a kind of anguish it took me two readings to “get” (which I like–I enjoy a poem that asks me to read it twice).

  3. October 22, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    This poem will stay with me as well. Kudos.

  4. October 31, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Nice elegy. I lost a daughter last year. Good peregrination around the subject; don’t we always talk around grief, though it include the whole history of man’s darkness?

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