Roy Jacobstein

 The form recapitulates in concrete form, as it were, the geometrical appearance of the stupa, and each word strikes me as a skull, and the formal aspect of the poem--its appearance on the page--reinforces its structural aspects and, perhaps, its overall impact. (Note even in this brief statement the accretion of words from the diction of construction: "concrete," "reinforce," "structural".) This is the only "concrete" poem I've written. 







Not wholesale
elimination, final
solution––it’s just
reduction by 1/10th,
not unlike the way
this eight-foot high
column of bleached
skulls from Pol Pot
days tapers upwards
almost imperceptibly
from base to topmost
crown, so as to mimic
the stupa, sacred tower
built over a lock of hair
or thread of robe or other
relic of the Buddha or spot
where once he’d meditated
during his life’s slow journey
to enlightenment, his becoming
ever more serene, impermanent,
white rose above a lattice of bones





“Decimation” is featured in Roy Jacobstein's latest book of poetry A Form of Optimism (U Press of New England, 2006), which won the Samuel French Morse Prize, selected by Lucia Perillo, and has received 3 nominations for the 2008 Pushcart Prize. His previous book, Ripe (U Wisconsin 2002), a Finalist for the Academy of American Poet’s Walt Whitman Award, won the Felix Pollak Prize, selected by Edward Hirsch. His poetry appears in The Threepenny Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Gettysburg Review, Iowa Review, Missouri Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly and elsewhere, and is included in LITERATURE: Reading Fiction, Poetry & Drama (McGraw-Hill, 2006). A public health physician and former official of the U.S. Agency for International Development, he works in Africa and Asia on women's reproductive health programs and lives with his wife and daughter in Chapel Hill, N.C.