June 13, 1896, Prague a warm day, old stone schul you stood before the minyon wearing the skullcap repeating ancient words that lay on paper, rehearsed sounding false on a tongue swollen in anxiety. Your tallit, white woven with blue threads hung at your knees fringe fingered, rolled and unrolled, twisted until touched to skin words inscribed, etched into collective memory. Seventeen years later sitting with Buber did words come back and stick on your tongue and later still when you studied under Bentovim, did words take form, shape, dredging up a past kept suppressed walking in desert heat knowing salvation was down a hill, entry forbidden. Lying in your bed in Hoffman’s Sanitorium, the trees of Kierling blooming did you recite Kaddish as endless night engulfed you.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008) and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum Vol. 32, No. 1 (2008)
For Something Different, a new bird photo each day, visit my other blog:
It has been said, wisely, that all children speak a common language, regardless of what adults believe they are hearing.
The proof of that proposition is simple enough, pause and watch a parent make demands of a child in the presence of other children, see the reluctant child glance at his foreign peers and gain silent and instant affirmation of adult unreasonableness.
When do we cease being able to communicate without words, in that language of childhood that is at once universal and capable of silence.
Watching French movies you know why Hollywood seems less real than the giant letters stuck like pushpins into a hillside. Even in translation laughter remains universal but you begin to think in word pictures that have utterly no meaning le neige gris la belle chat la lumiere fantastique and you imagine dreaming in a tongue you have never spoken.
forty-three years I’ve searched for my voice a whisper cracked hoarse one moment fluid another then silent. I shape words which fall off my tongue and lie in puddles on the floor. I step in them slipping regaining perilous toehold. I scream strangled thoughts dreams are forgotten the night laughs, she touches my forehead with her lips I welcome the silence of sleep.
First appeared in RE:AL The Journal of Liberal Arts 23:2, 1998
It is almost Pesach, early this year so I will get a birthday cake not the rubbery sponge cake of matzoh meal, eggs and ginger ale, covered in fruit. We are peeling the applies and chopping them for the charoset for the communal seder most to be thrown away along with the paper plates and chicken bones, and shards of matzoh, dry as the winds of the desert, the memory we drag out each year as the last snow fades slowly from the streets and trees. My friend enters the church as he does each holy week and stops at each station of the cross, imagining what it must have been like to carry the great cross up the hill, knowing that atop the centurions stood with spikes in hand waiting to pierce his wrists and ankles, ready to watch him droop against the wood as the heat licked between his toes. I imagine what it was like pushing the stones up the ramp the taste of sand and the whip burning my tongue. In ten days we can again eat sweet and sour pork and shrimp in lobster sauce and wait another year for the bits of horseradish, and he will imagine the fires of hell as he slips the five into the waistband of her G-string.
First Appeared in Kimera, Vol. 3, No.2, Winter, 1998. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005