Yermiyahu Ahron Taub
Photo Credit: Tony Delgrosso
This is some of what can be found in a book:
who owned it: from the library of … ,
the signing, the shapes of the scrawl the ardor vibrating in the dedication:
for Dorothea, in fond remembrance of our sojourn in Bratislava
and, as if in Morse code, the notes of others:
tell Jon to bring home the bacon!
This is some of what can be left in a book:
store receipts (especially the handwritten ones from the vintage shops)
doctor’s prescriptions Chinese fortune cookie maxims plumber bills
the phone number of the man in the shadows of an East Village dive bar
the photo of the ex with the PFLAG moms at a Pride parade
the after-hours pass to visit Mother in the hospital still so crisp
This is some of what can be felt on a book:
the red and yellow ink hovering just above the margins of its pages
the fingers that smudged caressed the corners and passed them
on and on until they arrived in this antiques mart off the interstate
delivered to me skepticism measured weighed until finally
banished by the fact of these words cosseted this object discovered
the fragrances of fellowship in the 24-hour diner
care for a refill, hon
the disappearance of sugar cube into freshly-brewed elixir
as the crowd files in for the bars have finally let out
whatever are the no-longer baby dykes wearing these days
the waitresses returning the flirt
the plot argument rhythm music that cannot be set aside for all this
ruckus so sweet the dénouement revealed conversion confirmed in
the contentment of the reader framed Hopperesquely in the plate window
born of these words framed just so in the unhurried turning of page
in the hard hats overalls the arrival can it be already
of the early morning construction worker shift
the silt scattering from gingerly opened covers years later
pottery fragments from a classical era
the unbinding of manuscript splinters from
the (almost musty) binding of accepted truth
hieroglyphics you will have to master some day
come now gather and decipher
Prayers, In Dialogic Embrace
Let his gifts deliver him
from these cinderblock rooms
in this concrete tower
high above grounds
littered with needles
and those whispering their wares in daylight
whom I alongside others have tried to no avail to eradicate
Let him steer his gifts clear of
certain women whether of night or of day
with their curves and temptation
the pleasure fleeting
and of men salivating who will approach him
with trifles and certainties that never materialize
leaving him slumped in front of the early afternoon television
Let his body in its glory truly a temple rippling and massive
so hard it is to find clothes that fit
that I have fed with chicken and salads not easy to come by here
yet still so fragile for all its might
be shielded on the field from the stomp of metal the pull of hands
the collision of bodies just as disciplined
and the snap of bone the tear of sinew irreparable
Let him enter rooms lined with books
after and before the ball has been thrown and carried
find meaning in the words that move over the page and screen
in labor that is quiet and demanding in another way
that I have never experienced for reasons beyond this prayer
but whose riches I see even as others refuse so to do.
Do not forsake him, O Lord, for on Your earth, he is all I have.
Let my body deliver us
to where she can walk without fear
of her groceries being stolen
pears rolling bruised out of reach
or her purse snatched for purchase of junk
the devil’s powdery redemption
delivered on a carpet of glass shards
Let me not fall into the snare of those
who seek only glitter and escape through flesh
who see not my heart’s tentative steps
into the forest primeval
of those who hope to trip me up
with numbers extravagant and words misleading
leaving me locked in a not-even-crawl-space before my time
Let this body sprung somehow from her own in middle age
nourished and sheltered with wisdom I did not always honor
be so adept that she need no longer bend to tend
granite counters and marble tiles and mahogany planks
those ungiving surfaces so unforgiving of bones and joints
and the soft ones too equally terrible the silk nightie and
lace panties tossed aside on unmade beds for her to handle
Let me forge a path to rooms barred alas to so many
with bindings black and brown and red in solemnity
my eyes agile over pages under green light
into a rapture small just right so that she shall be rescued at last
from the snake oil salesmen with their coffered prophecies
so that we may seek Your word together, O Lord,
in the arbor of Eden’s delighted gardens.
She responded to the ad at a friend’s suggestion,
albeit with reluctance.
It had been decades since she had spoken the language,
longer still since reading it.
She had not been the most attentive of after-school students,
as her mother used to remind her, in an institution not unlike this one.
Dredging was the only verb for all of this, she thought.
She made no effort to disguise her concern to the coordinator,
who only pooh-poohed her.
It’s like riding a bike, she chuckled grimly.
And then with greater candor: Besides, it’s able bodies we need here.
The corridors, painted in beiges and taupes, failed to
mitigate the occupants in various stages of disintegration.
Nor could the games the game shows the flowers the orderlies in pastels
muffle the walkers the canes and buzz of the hearing aids
the televisions too loud the pills almost forgotten the wigs askew.
The paraphernalia of the past-prime, the din of near-death, she shivered.
She placed her hand on the door knob to his room.
How ought his role be named? Charge? Listener? Readee?
He sat in a wheelchair by the window, wisps of hair fluttering
over dark glasses, wearing a gray oxford shirt
and black dress slacks, a whiff of after-shave hovering.
Someone had taken great care. After introductions, she opened
the volume (from the right side), the letters neither exotic nor familiar.
Dreading a tumult of emotion, she had not prepared for the reading.
And yet the words tumbled forth, the vowels providing signage.
She chose a classic monologue about a ne’er-do-well husband
and his wife long-suffering, given to juicy invective. A way of life closing.
Sometimes he would interrupt, or rather, call out along with the text,
as if her reading simply confirmed what he already knew
and had always known these many years, only waiting for someone,
for her specifically, this no-longer young woman in tweeds,
to make it spoken. When she looked up, or came to, night had arrived.
His head did not droop; his eyes smiled.
She blushed at his compliments on her reading, at his gratitude
gushed. If only my students … flitted through her mind.
Jittery now, she leaned into his left ear, peppered with black hair.
À tout à l’heure, she whispered, of course there will be a next time.
The Woman Who Did Not Turn Her Sorrow Into Art
You won’t find her in a music video,
in grainy black and white,
walking down the river bank,
neo-Gothic national palaces opposite,
raising her forgiveness heavenwards
in a glorious soprano.
You won’t find her at an open mike,
or a closed one for that matter,
spewing her fury scrawled on a notepad
or roiled on a smart phone,
safe, however momentarily,
in the solace of those who’d been there.
You won’t find her in a black box theater
regaling the assembled with vignettes
on being spurned carefully spun,
with an uplifting end so as not to deflate,
costumes magically changed,
color and shadow slicing despair into Technicolor shards.
Here she is instead:
on the window sill of her garret lodgings
retracing the path of his fingers nimble with her buttons,
sauntering over her nipples,
her breasts remembering pleasure in its initial,
most essential incarnation.
Here she is instead:
with a friend considering this frock and that—
apple green for a summer picnic in an orchard of any kind,
midnight blue for an evening with a (true) gentleman—
at the mirror of the cosmetics counter, dabbing with discernment,
networks of blue confetti around eyes green and deserted.
Here she is the last time we see her:
curled up in a ball on the floor,
racked with sobs,
snot pooling on the floor boards,
her father’s warning her to dare not return
lashing her belly just beginning to swell.
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is the author of three poetry collections, Uncle Feygele (Plain View Press, 2011), What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn (Parlor Press, 2008; Free Verse Editions series), and The Insatiable Psalm (Wind River Press, 2005). His English– and Yiddish-language poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Five Fingers Review, The Forward, and Lilliput Review. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he was honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage as one of New York’s best emerging Jewish artists. Please visit his web site at YATaub.net. Email: yermiyahutaub[at]yahoo.com