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The Jewish Poet

by David Ghitelman

 

for Menke Katz

 

Sunset from the fire-escape of Marietta’s loft,
the lower east side then New York City
unfolding into darkness beneath us,
from Grand Street to the Hudson River.
A lost world to me, of Puerto Ricans, Italians, blacks
            and Chinese;
stranger escaping from Long Island.

The last Jewish poet,
who I saw five years ago wandering in the Bronx night,
can not be dead.
He must still be at Columbia
his poems appearing below the letters on the Times’
            editorial page
and being translated into, he says with wonder, Japanese,
as he acts out in America the dreams of his shattered
      Lithuania.

Myself as a Jewish poet
rushing down Delancey Street on my way to breakfast,
a cup of coffee and rice pudding in a luncheonette,
as I east silently reciting lines from my half-written epic
of my journey into exile.
I leave the luncheonette to discover myself on the street
surrounded by cars, busses, stores, factories, pushcarts,
and millions of people hurrying past me on the sidewalk
none speaking Yiddish, kind mother tongue,
but an insane, ceaseless, incomprehensible babble called
            English.

 

Although David Ghitelman is rather brilliant, he will soon be looking for work. (Fall 1974)


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