Friday, December 4, 2009

Poetry from People-Watching

This is a new piece I would like to post for ya'll. It's still relatively newish, so be gentle. I wrote it while sitting on campus watching this old black man walking around the quad. He reminded me of a Hasid, only with cooler hair. The poem itself reflects an interior dialogue on the nature of unexpected combinations of socio-cultural-religious backgrounds. Specifically, the whole debate on, "Who is a Jew?" I thought a lot about the myriad sides, as well as my own personal opinion. And from that came this.

***Please note, this work is not intended to be offensive, but it does contain some offensive language.***

[jump to continue - click header]

Darkie Skullcap

I see the Black Hebrew
asiatic, transatlantic
religious convert
continental immigrant
the ultimate stranger in a strange land

I see the Black Hebrew
fro topped by a top-hat
and Jew-lox hanging down his shoulders
like a platypus tail
the strange combination of opposites

I see the Black Hebrew
speaking afro-Yiddish
Shylock in blackface
red lips and bright white teeth

I see the Black Hebrew,
and he sees me too
silently asks, "do you think
I am not a Jew?"
and I tell the black Hebrew,
"I think I do"
"but I am the darker brother
who lives behind you
in the mirror we are reflected
separate, yet connected
a color contrast in our religion
both us and the other
both part and apart
from the tribes twelve lost"

I see the Black Hebrew
call him schvarzter
call him goy
call him nigger
and he calls me back
idolater, imposter,
false-tribe, calf-worshipper
"am I not a son of Abraham?
is my skin too dark to be a Jew?
I am Ishmael, Ham and Sammy Davis Junior
I am Beta Israel, I am Hebrew"
lifts shofar to his lips and blows

I see the Black Hebrew
wearing David's star upon his breast
yellow patch offensive with his presence
what ancestors did he lose in the holocaust?
what anti-Semitism does he know?

I see the Black Kebrew
in his large black coat
with large black shoes
putting on tefellin
he looks like a hole
So dark I could fall into
So dark I could disappear

I see the Black Hebrew
in the soul-food diner he sits
back booth, asks the waitress
if they have anything kosher
she brings him pork-chops
with mashed potatoes
says that's all they have

I see the Black Hebrew
standing in synagogue alone
a frayed talis hanging down his neck
reading from second-hand prayer-books
singing Mourner's Kaddish
the cry my ancestors at Masada made
the cry from Polish shtetls
the cry in ghettos, boxcars, the camps
in the ditches and furnaces and skies of Eastern Europe

I see the Black Hebrew
skullcap covering his bald-spot
an old dark yid
stooped on a park-bench feeding pigeons

I see the Black Hebrew
and he sees me too

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