MID MORNING SONG

He leans against the wall
outside the Prêt à Manger
witting with his dog
on the old Mexican blankets
that look uniquely out of place
on a cool London morning.
He sips the now fetid coffee
in its Styrofoam cup,
its Burger King logo
and temperature warning.
His hair is long, mostly
gray with streaks of white,
his beard white
with swaths of blond, he
looks as though he
just stepped down the plank
of the great sailing ship,
returned from a voyage
save for his tattered, stained
Manchester United sweatpants.
I put 50p in his metal box
against my better judgment
and stroke behind the ears
of the placid dog.
“May you be many times praised”
he sputters, through teeth
stained tobacco brown,
“for with more like you,
Rufus here, and I shall later
enjoy a fine repast.
May Saint Dymphna be praised.”
In the taxi to Paddington Station
I wonder who my patron
might be, if Jews
only had Saints.

First published in Sideways Poetry Magazine, Issue Two
https://sidewayspoetry.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/london-issue-2-1.pdf

MY RABBI (PART 2)

I tell him I am thinking of becoming
a rabbi, someone just like him,
a man who saw so many through
all manner of crises, joyous events.

He sits back in his unsteady chair,
one he refuses to replace, this one
finally broken in, he says with that
gentle smile that melts anger, anxiety.

You would do well at it, I know, he says,
and I will gladly write you a recommendation
but think about this carefully, it is
not the life you might imagine it to be.

But before you decide, he adds,
reaching among a stack of books,
read these, handing me two volumes
that I did not imagine would change my life.

And somewhere, I have my own copies
of Alan Watt’s “Beat Zen, Square Zen and Zen”
and “The Book:On the Taboo Against
Knowing Who You Are?”, and I then knew.

MY RABBI (PART 1)

If you ask why I am a Buddhist
I will tell you there are a myriad
of possible reasons, choose one,
or take this one, it fits nicely.

I am in college, pulling my grades
up to mediocre, thoughts of medicine
gone, law only faint on a distant horizon
a master’s degree away.

I visit my childhood rabbi, a man
who has been my guide through much.
I peer into his office, his door removed,
and he bids me to come in and sit.

I do, slowly, carefully negotiating
around stacks of books piled
on every possible flat surface,
the walls covered in bookcases

straining to hold their loads, I
knowing a too loud sound, a jostle
and the avalanche would be
impossible to stop, disastrous.

UNKNOWING

Twenty years ago today
and there was no band playing,
at least not for me, for I knew
nothing of you yet, and you
knew nothing of me either.

I have met you since
in a moment of silence,
looking at a yearbook picture
knowing what was not, what
never was or could be.

I recite the Kaddish
even though my Judaism
has been laid to rest,
knowing what is, and
imagining what might have been.

A DECIMAL SYSTEM

So, if I have it right, God
managed to come up with ten
plagues for Moses to visit
on Pharaoh, although at the time
Moses probably could not
understand why it was ten,
since God was boundlessly
creative, or so He told Moses.

Maybe it dawned on Moses
when wandering in the desert
that ten was a convenient number,
after all, he only gave Moses
ten commandments, but I doubt
he told Moses they were
a starter set and the other
603 would come along
in due course, but Moses
wouldn’t take the blame
for them, he’d be written
out of the story in Book Two.

First Published in Half Hour to Kill, August, 2022
https://halfhourtokill.com/home/a-decimal-system-by-louis-faber

SIX FEET UNDER

I remember the afternoon
was cold and damp, with a persistent
drizzle that escaped
the clustered umbrellas,
the sky a blanket slowly shedding
the water that soaked it
as it sat out on the clothesline.

I suspect you would have
liked it this way, everyone in attendance,
everyone shuffling their feet,
wanting to look skyward,
knowing they would see only
a dome of black umbrella domes.

I recited the necessary prayers,
kept a reasonable pacing
despite the looks of many urging
me to abridge the service, but
the rain didn’t care about their wishes
and I knew you wouldn’t
so I carried on to the conclusion.

As they lowered your coffin
into the puddled grave, I imagined
you laughing, knowing in the end
you had this day gotten the last one.

First Published in The Poet Magazine – Featured Poetry
https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/august-2022

SIN

A poet suggested that sin
was created by the Christians,
wrong, of course, but perhaps
just being politically correct
in not naming the Jews as
its creator, or at least
giving it a name and rulebook.

And on the point of accuracy
the poet might have noted
that the Jews created
the Christians, for Jesus
was one of them, a reformer
before Judaism would allow
anything beyond orthodoxy.

All of which is a long way
of explaining why I am
now a practicing Buddhist.

SUNDAY MORNING

Every Sunday morning my parents,
usually my father at mother’s direction
would drive me the four blocks
to attend Sunday school.

I could easily have walked, a long
block and a half by cutting through yards,
but they were afraid of I have
absolutely no idea what.

My friends that weren’t there with me
were probably in church so
it wasn’t like I had anywhere else
I might go, anything else I could do.

I never asked why my parents were
so insistant I attend the school, they
knew I’d be Bar Mitzvahed with or
without the Sunday mornings,

and they were Jews only in the loosest
secular sense, and I was in those
awkward years and the only thing
else that came to mind, fed by

my father’s not so well hidden stash
of Playboy’s was too grim to imagine
and given how little they liked to be
around one another, could be rejected.

IMMIGRATION

When you got off the boat
you must have been scared,
but getting away from that life
made the fear bearable.

I have no idea how you ended
up in West Virginia, it wasn’t
at all like Lithuania, and Jews
might have had two heads I imagine.

But you all made do, made
a community, invited others
and were tolerated if odd,
and I am certain you wonder

what happened, why now those
or their children’s children’s
children are so willing to shun
others whose only sin, like yours,

was wanting to get away
from horror, from persecution,
from fear, and make a life
in the hills of West Virginia.

AFTERLIFE

In the farthest reaches
of the afterlife, the old men
gather each day, although
day and night are meaningless
to them, just assigned
for purposes of the writer.

The Buddha recites sutras
hoping the others will
be in the moment with him,
while Hillel smiles, stands
on one foot and dreams
of a lean pastrami on rye
with a slice of half sour.

Christ muses on when
mankind might be ready
for his return visit,
and Hillel says “good luck
with that, it’s been downhill
with them for two millenia.

Shroedinger sits off
to the side staring intently
at the box, wondering
if there is a cat inside.