Michael Cantor


Biblical Insights Through The New York Times Crossword Puzzle

The Thursday clue was “Son of Genesis,”
so automatically I entered Seth,
for Seth—poor unsung Seth—has always been
my favorite Bible guy: he languisheth
almost unknown, unclaimed; a silhouette
and little more among the Abels, Cains,
begetters and begat, whose lives and deaths
get all the ink. He never killed a brother;
no East of Eden in the land of Nod
promotion trips: Seth didn’t know from rains
or reigns, he had no agent, took no pains.

So in went SETH. In ink, and boldly writ,
the way I do. The letter count was right—
that’s all I checked—but liked the way it fit
and sensed that Seth would finally get some light;
that Adam’s unassuming third son might
be freed at last from his obscurity,
for Seth is nothing but a mensch to me.

But once the crosswords came to cross it came
across that SETH would never ever work.
I crossed him out, and wrote in CAIN the way
that I rewrite—in extra heavy ink—
and then the vision came—it’s ABEL that
they want! The Times has always been my God,
and God has always moved to favor ABEL.
How sad, and utterly predictable:
the thoughtful, brown-nosed son gets picked again—
an Upper West Side choice—so very Times.
I enter ABEL—with a thick red pen—
and pray that Seth and I will meet again.

Michael Cantor’s full-length collection, Life in the Second Circle (Able Muse Press, 2012), was a finalist for the 2013 Massachusetts Book Award for Poetry. A chapbook, The Performer, was published in 2007; and his work has appeared in The Dark Horse, Measure, Light, Raintown Review, and numerous other journals and anthologies. A native New Yorker, he has lived and worked in Japan, Latin America, and Europe, and presently divides his time between Plum Island, north of Boston on the Massachusetts coast, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.