Lullaby for the Lamb by Steve Scafidi


The wishbone snaps! A woman’s lap
and a million dollars in cash collapse.
This is the day good luck attacks
and sweetness comes to crack your back.
Here is a monkey with a paw attached.

I’ve got a knack for the zig and the zag
and keep a thousand words for love
each in a sack. I’m a tiny haystack
burning in the twilight as a white bird
circles and circles. The moon just drags

the sun around and Death is in you like
a thumbtack. You have to pull things
from your ass—and say so. All ghosts
go rickety rack like trains to Ohio
when it snows. Mother’s milk just goes.

Therefore, drink up, child. Drink.
The world is like a slaughterhouse
and Being is the lamb. Soon you will
understand the blah-blah back-beat
of blessings and be at home in the world

we are probably messing up for you
almost completely. I have witnessed
any number of beautiful things falling
from the sky. Gently into our hands.
Here is your mother and your fatherland.


Steve Scafidi is the author of several books of poetry including Sparks From a Nine-Pound Hammer which won the Levis Reading Prize in 2001. He lives in West Virginia and works as a cabinet-maker, as well as lecturing part-time at Johns Hopkins University. His poetry has appeared in a variety of publications including Shenandoah and his next book is due out this fall. The poem “Lullaby for the Lamb” is from his collection For Love of Common Words which also contains the award-winning poem “The Egg Suckers.”

In “Lullaby for the Lamb,” the author relies heavily on assonance and onomatopoeia to create the falling, musical cadence present throughout the “lullaby.”  This musicality is not only referred to in the title, but we see allusion to childhood nursery rhyme with the line “the blah-blah back beat.”  We are reminded of lost innocence as the rhythmic discourse of disillusion and discontent drives the poem to its conclusion. Perhaps the title and the content are an allusion to William Blake’s “The Lamb.” Similar themes of innocence and childhood and questions of theology are present in both; the two also employ a sing-song quality that sticks with the reader. Note the images of death and desolation as Scafidi observes that generations have destroyed the world for the children who grow up within it. We are raised in land decimated by those before us. Mentions of luck force the reader to remember that we are not in control of our lives nor of the lives of those around us and circumstances dictate our happiness. Unfortunately, we must cope with the world as we enter into it, as we shape it, and it shapes us.

Steve Scafidi will be on the Washington and Lee campus giving a public reading on Sept. 18, 2013 at 7:45 pm.  Admission is free to the public.

For Love of Common Words was published in 2006 by Louisiana State University Press and is available for purchase on Amazon.