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JGuberman Nov 2016
The deaf blacksmith
Rendered in silent iron the wagon wheels
that they now walked behind
with ever larger ruts
that would eventually hold the whole village.
It’s the shabbes of comfort
When “the rugged shall be made level,
And the rough places a plain;….and all flesh shall see it together….”

He never heard the one that hit him
Hearing wouldn’t have helped they say,
“all the flesh shall see it together”
And all did that hot day, thick with mosquitoes and flies
And a pestilence of lead.
The winds blow through the fallow fields
Tearing at the roots of the waving grass
Though grass is stronger than the winds that whip it
And the many blades hold firm defiantly
We shall not be moved again!
*“all flesh is grass
And all the goodliness thereof is
As the flower of the field;
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth;
Because the breath of the Lord bloweth upon it---
Surely the people is grass.”
Byten was a town in what is now Belarus where family members were martyred during WWII. The deaf blacksmith was my great-grandfather.
JGuberman Nov 2016
with a hole in my heart
I have to take care
not to let all the love spill out
desiccating a young heart before its time,
even if borrowed and not returned before it's due
whenever that will be.

don't tell life's librarian
even if it's overdue
there are things I'd still like to see
places I'd still like to go
so I don't feel like I'm waiting for the hangman
to finish his merit badge for one handed knot tying
which will take long enough
if not forever, I hope.

though stumbling up the gallows steps
I will have been to several mountain tops
and will have seen several lands of promise
and though I will not make it elsewhere with you
you've filled the hole in my heart
long enough
for me to get this far
though it's never far enough.
JGuberman Sep 2016
To see the light of memory
to but a wisp of smoke
to hear the burning candle
at the end of its wick
extinguish itself in a hiss,
is to experience for but a moment
ancient death performing its work anew.

"I cannot see, I cannot see!"
says the soul of its diminishing
diminished light.
"Illuminate me, O God,
make me to shine like the light
in a child's eyes,
allow me to walk again
along the edge of creeping darkness,
like a carefree youth
no longer afraid of the dark.
But I'm still afraid, Oh so afraid
that if you close my eyes this once
I will not return to burn with sight again
for the fire that now fades
and hisses
is but ancient death performing its work
rendering a disserve to my being
by reducing the light of memory
in the hearts of each succeeding generation."
Published in a different format in RESPONSE XVI:4 (Winter 1990), p. 81
Yahrzeit is the anniversary of a family member's death at which time a "yahrzeit candle" is lit which burns 24 hours during the annual yahrzeit period.
JGuberman Sep 2016
The views from Qing Xiu Shan are very nice
and I am feeling better than I did this morning
the Yong River winds through green fields
the breeze fills my lungs
my thoughts rustle like bamboo leaves
a southern tranquility rises in the distance
covered by the opaque morning
this is what my mind's eye sees
as I rock my little girl to sleep
kissing the forehead
that will never be without a kiss
until my lips are still
like the peaceful day we yearn for
Qing Xiu Shan is a small mountain 5 km outside Nanning (Guangxi) China.
southern tranquility is a literal approximation of what Nanning  means in English.
JGuberman Sep 2016
Upon seeing the new dining room chair;
that is the one reserved for me,
I am seized by a lordly desire
to one day sell it
so that later no one would say
"see, that was his chair"
or "these scratches and stains, are from
a time before,
this emptiness, from a time after."
I want it to be sold or
given away, before it's an alteh zach
or before I'm an a.k.
afraid that someday someone will say
"all he does is sit and stare all day....
The title is a Yiddish word that apparently originates from the Czech word NEBOKY according to Leo Rosten. Also pronounced "nebbish". It is a word of sympathy towards a pathetic person. According to Weinreich it means "poor, unfortunate".

Alteh Zach is Yiddish for an "old thing". For example an antique is an alteh zach.

A.K. is the American Yiddish abbreviated version of "alteh kokker" and is a vulgarity meaning an "old ****" or curmudgeon.
JGuberman Sep 2016
Let us sleep
like the staircase
that once led up to the Temple Mount
no longer able to carry pious feet to prayer,
but the well experienced cracks
over which they once walked
expose the heavy burden
of well worn memories
under which we now slumber.

Sunrise from Masada.
The view from the casemate wall
of Silva's camp below.
Shadowy ghosts
are cast and scattered
and given voice as the wind
shouts through the buildings ruins
L'-he-rut Zi-yon
and there is no reply.
Only the songs of the Tristramit
who mimic the voices
of every child martyred here, singing:
*Shalom al Ziyon, Shalom al Ziyon"
and there is no reply,
only the dreams of the interrupted
and the disturbed peace
of excavated ruins.
L'herut Ziyon (Hebrew) is an inscription on coins of the Jewish First Revolt against the Romans (CE 66-73) meaning "for the freedom of Zion".

Tristramit is the Hebrew name for "Tristram's Grackle" Onycognathus tristramii described by Heinzel et al in The Birds of Britain & Europe; with North Africa & the Middle East as "Song sweet, wild and weirdly melancholy" (p. 302). It's a gregarious bird known to mimic sounds as well. Commonly seen in and around Masada as well as elsewhere in the Middle East. Named for H. B. Tristram a 19th century English traveler and naturalist.

"Shalom al Ziyon" (Hebrew) meaning "peace upon Zion".

This poem was originally published in 1990 in the New Zealand Jewish Chronicle's literary supplement with notes by Prof. Norman Simms of the University of Waikato.
JGuberman Sep 2016
There isn't much left.
That's the way it is sometimes.
You plan and plan
for the day
when there won't be any,
and yet you're still surprised
when there isn't much left
in the end.

My days are not like seven fat cows
or seven skinny ones.
My days are like veal.
They're slaughtered young,
and at night I feast upon them.

Some nights I can sleep contentedly afterwards..
And others,
I lay awake unable to dream at all.

Guilt keeps me awake.
I've become a kosher butcher of time!
Often my own.

That's the way it is sometimes.
There isn't much left.
So I plan and plan
trying to postpone the day
when there won't be any.
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