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Jendi Reiter

Jendi Reiter is the editor of Poetry Contest Insider, a quarterly online guide to over 400 poetry contests per year, published by WinningWriters.com. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, The New Criterion and many other journals. Her first book of poems, A Talent for Sadness, will be published this fall by Turning Point Books (for ordering info, see www.turningpointbooks.com). Visit her website at www.jendireiter.com.

Jendi writes: Many of the elemental images of Christianity have become dulled and domesticated by familiarity. This allows would-be sophisticates to dismiss the faith as sentimental and outmoded. "Cliché" represents such a person's struggle to resist the radical, life-upsetting power of Christian belief. It expresses fears that I contend with as a believer—the fear of degradation, of losing one's self.


the beggars you have always with you
like bad paintings of sunsets
roses of a mindless lover
the beggars know how to droop
on their canes like stems
faded blood-droplet heads
who could deny them water

a clown weeps outside the hotel
no room for those painted
eyes on velvet
like dice rolling white across the green dealer's table
every gamble is a bridge
you could burn across into exile

money is the root
of the tooth and the gold cap
smiling like a bishop
the shining bite of your benevolence
you forget to listen to what you know

or maybe scorn
all that rosy plaster of angels and asses
too many hands and why not
help and become clean
as a picked pocket
a bone even the dog won't bow to

meanwhile the beggars lift gold
out of the air like a sudden lighting of matches
what you don't give will be taken
burns as easily in any pocket

Copyright ©2002 by Jendi Reiter