Defending the Veil

By Martin Altman

The veil’s a swath of cotton, silk or flax,

The recipe of God or man

In accord with scripture that

Keeps the face secure

In shadow and repose.


The baby’s first hijab

Is the placenta. The glow

It sees is filtered by a skein of skin.


What other garment is

Grafted to your eyes to

Protect its fragile function from

Those spies that strain to pierce the double door?

When all the gates are guarded,

The beast is held at bay.


The eyes take in and devour the man

In the light of day and

Remove him from the street.

He attaches to some pretty young thing to

Restore his heartbeat.

He’s a stunted tree.

What turns his eye

From its home south bay?

What turns his eye

To the roughest play?

A scandal’s a scourge.

A dirge plays.


Beauty in the deepest cave is

Content to shimmer on the throne

Without an audience.


So abide in the yellow light of

The lily’s embrace.

The veil of darkness makes the darkness shine.


Martin Altman was born and raised in the Bronx, NY, worked in Garment District for 40 years, and has resided in Chicago since 2010. He is a featured reader at The Café and TallGrass Writers Guild in Chicago.