[The bread has become moldy]

By Charles Reznikoff 1894–1976 Charles Reznikoff
The bread has become moldy
and the dates blown down by the wind;
the iron has slipped from the helve.
The wool was to by dyed red
but the dyer dyed it black.

The dead woman has forgotten her comb
and tube of eye-paint;
the dead cobbler has forgotten his knife,
the dead butcher his chopper,
and the dead carpenter his adze.

A goat can be driven off with a shout.
But where is the man to shout?
The bricks pile up, the laths are trimmed,
and the beams are ready. Where is the builder?

To be buried in a linen shroud
or in a matting of reeds—
but where are the dead of the Flood
and where the dead of Nebuchadnezzar?

From The Poems of Charles Reznikoff by Charles Reznikoff, edited by Seamus Cooney. Reprinted by permission of Black Sparrow Books, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc. Copyright 2005 by Charles Reznikoff.

Source: Poems 1918-1975: The Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff (Black Sparrow Press, 1977)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Charles Reznikoff 1894–1976

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Subjects Living, Death, Religion, Judaism, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Charles  Reznikoff

Biography

Emerson remarked that the best writers often have the shortest biographies. The genius “draws up the ladder after him,” and the world, which had consigned him to obscurity during his lifetime, “sees the works and asks in vain for a history.”
 
Whatever judgment may ultimately be passed upon him, not much more than his works is ever likely to be known of Charles Reznikoff. He left no fervent disciples. The record he wished to . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Religion, Judaism, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.