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Poetry

_____The row of goyim, that’s us,
family of half the family,
those who don’t talk of Israel at dinner,
here because of fate,
because of the strangeness of our children,
because of this grandchild in his tallis,
his kippot, words we read the leaflet to know.
We watch the Torah lifted from its rainbow
tomb, moved that the world’s been organized
this other way, too, into this pageant
we both agree and, well, we don’t disagree
is true. Zach pronounces perfectly,
as far as we can tell. Who is this child
who speaks his sermon on the poor,
the ignored?
_____It’s as if we’ve crawled into a flower,
petal after petal to the seed,
past its successive cell divisions
to a beginning we can barely imagine.
Imagine, we’re all dreaming of being good!
We’re dressed-up blooms in a row, rising
and sitting, wearing the little bowls of yarmulkes,
or the women’s pinned-on flutter of lace.
And what’s the imagination doing now,
tossing on the tallis like Superman’s cape?
Did the world begin with form
or formlessness? Which is happier?
Now Zach’s carrying the Torah,
warrior triumphant, people kissing its sash.
We’re smiling. The Jewish heartbreak
we can never enter, but this child
is beautiful enough to break our hearts:
the distance, the cost, the wild shifts
of language it’s taken to get here.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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