Sophia G. Starmack


He’d barred all the windows. The doors were locked,
the old books put away, yet every night:
the knocking. He turned and turned in his sleep.
Tenderly, someone was setting the table.
Covering his head with the quilt, he heard them
speaking in maddening verse, spilling the wine;
their stubborn, old-fashioned lamps describing
spells of light on the floor. In the morning
he never found the unleavened breadcrumbs,
no dark crush of oil on the cloth. Only
the intractable rhythm of an old prayer,
the fierce vibration, the bell not rung.


Not because they remembered to dress nice but not too nice for the party.
Not because they kept their make-up natural,
or because not one of them outshone the bride.
Not because of the fork-and-knife lessons,
or the nightgowned waltzes late in the dining room.
They were somewhat bruised from studying.
At least one had gone all the way.
Not because their flasks were so chastely filled, their wicks respectably trimmed,
not even because they slept so slightly the whitest sigh would wake them.
It was because they kept their oil to themselves.

They’d given so much already, the gesture hollow like a lamp.


Sophia G Starmack lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she keeps busy as a homeschool tutor and writing teacher. She is currently translating a novel from the French.