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.
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.
To see the light of memory reduced 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 anew 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.
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.
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.... Nebech."
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.
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.