Umbilicus (World Axis)


I swung my hand over open water, hoping to clasp my son.

His hollow center breathed the vapors of heaven,
the day at full tilt, earth swung on its axis:

morning, noon, morning, night. I was a sequence refusing
to move, my shadow progressed

the sundial, and there was my mountain, vine, ladder, stalk, column of

smoke, my stairway.




Cronus ruled the earth, the heavens and sea, so the nymph hid Zeus
by dangling him from an olive tree

while the stone wrapped in cloth, he swallowed.

Granite roiled four walls of his belly.

He was Saturnus, in Roman, meaning ‘sowing,’ his scythe, allegory
for passing generations.




You have to measure time because it’s wild and destructive.
A human figure is a temple or a tower.

You measure from its center in four cardinal directions.
You have to measure the father to give him identifiable shape.

His serpentine face, his cold father knuckle.

Each child leaps from the platform;
a bridge is not vertical like a temple or a tower,

but a bracket flanked by shadows.




Mine suffered migraines in a basement room.

I pressed the damp cloth to his forehead, child to melancholy, who wished
to devour me:

the universe of earth, sea and sky, split apart.


My father used to say, “People are dying now who have never died before!”

And then he was an image seen without himself, a blank face in facelessness,
made of things no longer in existence,

and others that weren’t, yet.

He climbed the exterior fire escape, clutching in each hand his typewriter, short-wave
radio; his teeth located each rung and held him.




All cords link back—

the pale blue nightscape pulled around my head,
barette clamped to his cloudy scab-stump.

‘Kairos,’ meaning weather in Greek, or the crucial event into which a text is spoken.

Little net of his body, a tent
from a little vapor.

His mountain’s face is pinned with pines, and we beneath it
wander cloud and lattice,

flanking both sides of myself, neither a still point nor
its severing.

And I am a father without features.
A fatherless room.

Rachel Moritz is the author of three chapbooks: Elementary Rituals, Night-Sea, and The Winchester Monologues. Her work has been published in American Letters and Commentary, Aufgabe, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Iowa Review, TYPO, and VOLT. She edits poetry for Konundrum Engine Literary Review and publishes a chaplet series from WinteRed Press.