Archives for posts with tag: poetry


Aron Glantz-Leyeles does not make things easy for the translator or critic. A formalist, he was of a philosophical, lugubrious bent; spending most of his life in America, he was no troubadour, guerilla fighter, or escaped refusenik. Neither did he become the harrowing, post-war poet of Holocaust remembrance (like Jacob Glatstein), triangulating God’s absence with the calipers of Jewish history and the “goyim’s” nonchalance. His lyric conclusions are different, and more deliberate.Amerike-un-ikh2

More on the virtuoso of loneliness in a blogpost of mine (including some new translations of Leyeles’ verse) posted recently at In Geveb.

Maybe a law of gravitation was in force here too:

Suddenly I found myself attracted to a strange unknown city. This city wasn’t included in the itinerary of my voyage round the world by air. I didn’t even know its name, or whether such a clime was to be found on Earth at all.

It happened this way:Avrom-Sutzkever-2-420x250

When the airplane slid out of the slanted air onto the silky smooth runway, on its way to kick out some passengers to their connecting flight, glugging itself full of gas, or some other drinkable, en route to another nonstop across the sea — I nonchalantly grabbed my bag and in a daze followed the few passengers off the plane.

Read “A Smile at the End of the World,” this story by Avrom Sutzkever in my translation, thanks to the editors at B O D Y. The original is from his volume Green Aquarium. If you are a publisher who is interested in a fantastic volume of prose poems like this one, be in touch!

F9781627200141-OneNation-COV.inddor a polyglot midrashic poetic joyride on a Yiddish-English-Baltimore-American bassackward hybrid – with musical cantor-brown-300x200stylings too – come see me and Cantor Ariane Brown at Adas Israel Congregation, Washington, DC, on Sunday, November 8th. I’ll read from my book of poetry One Nation Taken Out of Another, which features the following main characters:

Avra(ha)m of Ur
Avrom Sutzkever
God
Me
Matriarchs aplenty
Amy Weinhouse
Nadav
Avihu
et al.

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.

A poem from One Nation Taken Out of Another.

Slide1

PSEUDO-EPIC

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?

Some new poems of mine were published in the journal The Legendary. Here they are below.

Aubade

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.

Anatomy

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
instant sympathy.
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).

index

Reckoning

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.

Here are some poems to read if you are too far away to get shalekhmones from me. Or if you don’t celebrate Purim at all…these poems are still for you.

YUMcookie

Purim Doggerel 2014

Herring Barrels
Dvoyre Fogel (1934)

Round like the world, like the city
five hooped barrels of herring
in the grocer’s
at 22 BROAD STREET.

Five round wooden barrels
of fat gray salted herring.

50 GROSCHEN EACH
JOSHUA SCHIMMELS
FAT HERRING
50 GROSCHEN EACH

And on faraway glassy seas
narrow ships loaded with fish
— fish gray and velvety like an autumn sky —
ships cool, blue, the faraway
of resigned steely landscapes

And on hot seas
of blue cobalt and ultramarine
ships loaded with oranges
meaty bananas and humid dates

Ships from brass landscapes
where the sun is a great metal ingot
where on streets elastic like gold foil
everything is for the first time and urgent.
Fantastic and out of nothing
like old world-weary bananas. Like oranges.
Like people who’ve gambled away their constellations.

 

 

My translation from the Yiddish (original here). Originally published in Eleven Eleven.