Poetry October 2011

The Custodian

More

Sometimes I think I have lived
My whole life like that old janitor
Who locked up after the rabbi
And patrolled the synagogue at night.

He never learned the Hebrew prayers,
Which he hummed under his breath
As he folded the soiled tallises
And stacked the skullcaps into piles.

He opened the Holy Ark by hand
And dusted off the sacred scrolls,
O Lord, which he never opened,
And cut the light behind the organ.

He ignored the Eternal Lamp
(Woe to the worker who unplugged it!),
As he vacuumed the House of Prayer
Muddied by the congregation.

Not for him the heavenly choir music
Or the bearded sermon handed down
From the lectern, though stars squinted
Through the stained-glass windows.

Every now and then he’d sigh
And stare up at the domed ceiling
As if he had heard something auspicious,
But it was only the wind in the trees.

He picked a prayer book off the floor
And carried it down to the basement,
Where he chewed on a sandwich
And listened to a ballgame on the radio.

Edward Hirsch is the author of many books of poetry and prose, most recently The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems (2010). He lives in Brooklyn.
Jump to comments
Presented by
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Did I Study Physics?

In this hand-drawn animation, a college graduate explains why she chose her major—and what it taught her about herself.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Video

How Is Social Media Changing Journalism?

How new platforms are transforming radio, TV, print, and digital

Video

The Place Where Silent Movies Sing

How an antique, wind-powered pipe organ brings films to life

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In