Karl Plank 


Not from mud of the Moldau would I make my golem.
I would catch-out at Ashland and ride the C&O 
to the year 1940, stopping at the mouth of Perry’s Branch
to plunge like dipper stick and bucket 
into the fireclay at Burnt House mine. 
Here I’d stand with Cloud Meecham,
filling the mold with slurry,  
tossers and setters nearby to load
the beehive kiln—matter hardening to brick,
brick defying fire. Let there be fire-
brick, I would say.  

Let us make mud in our image. 

In Prague, ben Bezalel carved truth
above the brow of his creature and gave him life.
We, though, can only say what we know:

that firebrick from Olive Hill lined torpedo cars
to haul molten iron and withstand temperatures
beyond 3000 degrees Fahrenheit;

that the human body disintegrates to ash
when subjected to roughly half that measure;

that the Maharal could not have foreseen
the uses to which fire would be put--
that the Maharal could not have foreseen

that a golem must be formed from fireclay
if it is to survive what could not have been foreseen; 

that the time for golems may have passed,
like dust settling back into the mine-caves 
of sediment and clay;

that it may not be enough.
The golem, only a legend.

But we know this, too:

that one summer evening in 1933, Cloud Meecham
came home with dusty hands and held his child aloft
in a storm—she said, so I’d never be afraid.



Karl Plank is the J.W. Cannon Professor of Religion at Davidson College. His poetry has appeared in journals such as Beloit Poetry Journal, New Madrid, and Anglican Theological Review, as well as being featured in Poetry Daily. He is a past winner of the Carter Prize for non-fiction prose (Shenandoah).


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