THE PUPPET RABBI OF PRAGUE
—for Richard Katrovas
A rabbi puppet with black glass eyes dangles on black strings. Black hat black payot black beard black shoes a marionette rabbi for Prague’s ghost Jews. I walk and I mourn. I buy the puppet to hang on my wall knowing its hatred but loving its death. I dislike the word "ultra-orthodox" but that doesn’t mean I dislike you bubbe. Words carry their own smells as they come to mind wafted on their own steam. Like grandmother’s soup with sliding yellow windows of soapy fat and swollen barley. That smell would fly a boy into a kitchen. You can look inside a word and find a person. Barley: grandmother. Shul: an old man flies to the boy and turns his black prayerbook downside up. Did all the words fall out? Did all the holy words fall? Even as images come upside down in the eye like words without wrappers. Just plain words: bubbe, raw, barley. Cooked long they float up in a bubble. With a light brown line up their middle like a birth seam or grim mouth. These words taste good on the tongue. We pass them mouth to ear, ear to mouth. They carry intimacy of our breath. They were prayers once. Now I use them for hammers and drills. For puppets.
The Pages and Pages
—for R. Ozer Bergman
I opened the book I closed the book.
For ever after words would speak.
I opened the book and saw a brilliant light
rushing me cresting mountains to the east.
Behind: a congregation's midnight robes.
I slept on the book I slept in the book.
I carried it to school and swallowed the words.
It was my life in all the barren days
my life of worries, words, my life of thoughts
of broken skies and waving crowns of trees.
I wrote in the book the book wrote in me.
I held the book the book held me.
I slept and dreamed on the book
and the book dreamed in me.
When I opened it again the words
were the same and changed,
I read into the book and found my world
with its roses and enemies
its pink roses and green enemies
its calyces closed on buds.
I opened the book in me
and who will close the book on me?
Who will close my eyes?
Just outside the cemetery men
bury a damaged scroll,
the words torn from the page
the letters walking out of the words.
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