Alen Kanfer seems to be a somewhat mysterious figure. Born in Russia in 1905, he spent most of his life teaching English at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens. A prolific poet, he was published in the Kenyon Review, Harper’s, Poetry magazine and the Sewanee Review. And that is all the internet seems to know about him. But his poems are lovely, and this is among the loveliest:
by Allen Kanfer
Whatever residue of pride adhere
To eyes, to bones, to hair will shed like sand
When we discover that the name is near
And fire is light, and we are asked to stand.
That night my hair was like a fell of sheep,
My bones were water, I was weak and dumb:
My perfume reeked like camp whores that we keep.
I stood, receiving “I am that I am.”
How small the distance is between the root
And flower: the name is near as our consent,
As our denial. Coming up the hill on foot
Long after, knowing we must be content
With shadow of the name, I shed my will
But not my love: the final miracle.