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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Blumenthal
Michael Blumenthal
Born in 1949, Michael Blumenthal is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently And (BOA Editions, 2009), and Dusty Angel (1999), which received the Isabella Stewart Gardner Prize...
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FURTHER READING
Poems about Jewish Experience
Kaddish, Part I
by Allen Ginsberg
A Little History
by David Lehman
Afterlife
by Joan Larkin
An Old Cracked Tune
by Stanley Kunitz
Fugue of Death
by Paul Celan
Hey Allen Ginsberg Where Have You Gone and What Would You Think of My Drugs?
by Rachel Zucker
In a Country
by Larry Levis
In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport
by Emma Lazarus
In the Park
by Maxine Kumin
It had been long dark, though still an hour before supper-time.
by Charles Reznikoff
Kissing Stieglitz Good-Bye
by Gerald Stern
Notes on the Spring Holidays, III, [Hanukkah]
by Charles Reznikoff
The Poem as Mask
by Muriel Rukeyser
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Jew

 
by Michael Blumenthal

for Isaac Bashevis Singer


The melancholy of Chopin and cruel breathing
folds back your sheets,
and you rise like lightly leavened bread,
like all the old, arthritic Jews left in the world,
from your Sabbatical sleep.

You rise and wipe the crusted blood
from your doorpost, kiss the angled mezuzah,
and are grateful you have again been spared
the pestilence and the lice,
the hailstones and the fissuring earth,
the ambiguous knife of Abraham.

You go to the window, and through the Jew-eyes
of this life you watch children stomp
their booted feet against the sidewalk,
grandmothers and grandfathers sew yellow stars
onto their lapels and wrap their hungry bones
in the long phylacteries.

It is 1979, you know it, but you have slept
like a Jew. And dreamt like a Jew. And the dreams
of all the persecuted Jews (the Jews chased
by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the Jews
converted by the Egyptians and the Romans and
the Hari Krishnas, the Jews baked like strudel
and refined into lampshades by the resourceful Germans)
swim like fresh sperm into the ovaries of your sleep,
and you wake, pregnant and nauseous with Jew
and with history
and with your ambivalent God.

And then you go to the table,
and (though you never believed
God could enter through your mouth)
you eat like a Jew,
you feel the milk that does not want to sleep
with the meat, and the meat that does not want
to sleep with the milk, and you feel
the stones of some vague guilt, the stones
of immer Morgen, Morgen
of the anxious bridegroom, Doom,
and the reluctant bride, Joy,
turn in your stomach like the ballast of some
Hassidic boat that refuses to sail on the Sabbath.
And it is always the Sabbath.

And then you go to your bed,
and you make love to your wife like a Jew,
with your desperate tongue and your mutilated penis
and your envy of womanhood grown so large
you are the best lover in the world, better
than Robert Redford and all the goyische skiers,
better than the Black athletes with their beautiful,
round buttocks that turn like greased bearings
in your wife's Jew-hating dreams.






From Sympathetic Magic, published by Water Mark Press in 1980. Copyright © 1980 by Michael Blumenthal. Used by permission of the author.
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