Jewish Wry

Whenever my grain is milled to dust
And forms with grief a heavy paste
And flattened I begin to loaf
In doubt of the resurrecting yeast,
I think of how the Jews were bred
To rise in the long unleavened war
And how their soul did not collapse
When Hitler slammed the oven door.

–September 18, 1998

(“Jewish Wry” was published in the Spring 2004 issue of Ship of Fools, Rio Grande University OH.)


From the title downward, this poem runs on a series of logically interconnected turns on the basic metaphor that pictures the Jewish people in terms of bread. Some of these turns are highly serious puns which I note here because otherwise they will be lost on some readers: “Wry”/rye in the title, “grain” like wheat/grain as the basic quality of a person in line one, “loaf” of bread/loaf about in despair in line three, and “bred”/bread in line five. Regarding the first of these puns, I mean “Wry” in the sense that the fortitude of the Jews of the Second World War turned to one side the intent of their tormentor so that as a people–and in not a few cases as individuals– they survived. Part of my motivation in writing the poem was to participate in a small way in the fiftieth anniversary of the modern state of Israel, whose existence is one of major expressions of that survival.

Published on November 2, 2006 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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