“A half moon in black, rimmed in gold.”
An exciting day – In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies is live! Among the first batch of content is my translation of Avrom Sutzkever’s “A Funeral in the Rain,” one of his prose poems (it’s the length of a short story) from the volume “Green Aquarium.” If you don’t know Sutzkever, or know him only as a lyricist, please take a look and let me know what you think.
“The seventh window. Six. Seven. You need to knock seven times to get to Sister Ursula.” Photo credit: Madeleine Cohen.
Best of success to these hardworking academics who are so generous, helpful, and welcoming to literary layfolk. And may Yiddish writing of today find a place in their orrery.
In recent months, two stories of mine, both having to do with medicine, healing, and Baltimore, have appeared in two literary journals.
In “A Letter for You,” appearing in Gravel, a white doctor tries to orient himself with regard to his African-American patients.
In the first issue of Dryland, a new litmag from LA, you can read my story “Pain and the Machine,” in which a floor buffer chases a janitor down the hall.
I’d love to hear your reactions to these.
America! You’re frustrating
Though substantively less hating
(at least this week, for some subgroups.
Regarding others — ha ha, oops…).
America! You love the loving
But can be nasty, push-and-shoving.
Can we get our shit together
Ere End Times’ catastrophic weather?
I like you lots, my favorite land,
The number 1 refuge for scound-
rels, mountebanks, and smarties:
Frauds and blackguards of both parties.
The songs you liked are now ironic —
The slope of age is monotonic.
A creature needs her gin and tonic
To ascertain if she’s bionic:
Thereafter, calmed to an irenic
Trance (Synthetic? Analytic?)
You realize ages are syncretic.
Decades are no mere static metric
But drive – in toto – an organic
Plunge, more Virgil than Titanic.
Why then does your mirror panic?
The life of Chasidim, Jews living according to strict religious precepts within the confines of a separatist society, is fascinating because it is different from most of our lives. Some might imagine that most under such constraints are happy enough to stay there—or else they would leave, wouldn’t they? Thinking more carefully, we remind ourselves that there are constraints we don’t know about. And some of them do leave. How do they make that decision? Two recent books explore departures from the Orthodox path, answering two different questions – what is their experience like in general, and what does the story of one ex-Orthodox Jew tell us in particular?
More at Killing the Buddha, which printed my review of books by Lynn Davidman and Shulem Deen on the ex-Orthodox.
Some new poems of mine were published in the journal The Legendary. Here they are below.
I wake up with a craving for the whole damn diamond
yet scrabble for shards.
Light shatters on my grayish rainment.
Every hour is my friend:
I name them after beetles.
Everything Has a Hole In It
Everything has a hole in it
and all the holes line up
a telescope of defect
a tube of not-enough
to see right through to error
or what might come to pass
You try to catch the football
and whump right on your ass
remember that you never
should play a sport at all.
Passivity’s your call.
This should have been foreseen:
mene, tekel, ufarsin.
So how can we repair?
What thoughts can we select
Already on the stair
Away from the repast
Full of insult and eclairs?
There is a lining up of holes.
There is a defect-rich alignment.
This they did not teach in school.
You give yourself this one assignment.
In the membrane of my heart
curls a cardiac worm,
uncorking bloodflow’s spurt
as current squirms.
“That’s not how these things work!
There IS no ‘cardiac worm’!”
But my muscle is verrucous.
And sensations: vermiform.
What It’s Like
Myths bloom among mistakes.
A voyage of secrets:
along the routes of truth
you hear real screams.
Put down your pencil. People are dying
on the artists’ street.
What’s the point of rhyme
when your body doesn’t know what’s worse:
instant fire, or aimlessness
in endless hallways.
The poetic license expires.
Put down your pencil. You manage
You feel in your entrails
the hand of annihilation.
A missile eliminates
A bomb shatters you.
You are now expert in possible demises
The end of a straw-packed trunk of dreams
What’s life like
in death’s developments?
Today marks the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, and to commemorate it I’ll repost a poem I wrote 4 years ago (originally published here).
She was a woman worth a certain amount
to her family: a pension or lump sum.
All I could say was this is human
when I saw her on the street, red
gathered at what must have been her neck. Count
the holes in my body — she faced me: I retched — some
of which I made when jumping. What man
reckons what the living owe the dead?
I didn’t kill you. My every liberal part
aches for the laborer, the immigrant,
the seamstress whose callused finger bled.
I’m killed and rise up daily. My scalded heart
fibrillates, a sack of worker ants.
My words in your mouth are beit-din’s lead.
Scott is sitting in the corner of the kitchen, feeding baby Antonina freshly pumped breastmilk since I am busy cooking. His voice is a little raspy and his hands are clumsy because he is on day 2 of Folfox cycle #6.
More about an unexpected juxtaposition here.