[Inspired by Enid Dame]

 

Our grandfathers worked as tailors,

union organizers,

or in rural communes

where anarchists and communists battled relentlessly

about ideologically-correct procedures

to slaughter chickens.

 

But that is history. Now,

if you tell us you visited unmet relatives

in the Old Country,

saw grandparents’ homes or ancestral temples,

we smile at your happiness

while our minds peck hopelessly to escape their shells,

searching for any kernel of kinship

while our stomachs run headless

through lifetimes bereft of kin.

 

If we visit a chicken farm,

we become brooding hens,

dream for months

about the view from inside a Nazi cage

eating a few pellets a day,

waiting to be plucked, sliced,

gas-roasted.

 

We try to forget

by refusing to forget,

by imagining Israeli relatives

who may not exist,

by sending money and weaponry

to enslave a people

whose land these relatives

now covet, now encage.

 

At our best, we are prophets,

Noahs in a storm of lies,

who open chickens’ cages,

who invent slogans

from ill-remembered Old-Country struggles

and the book of Moses,

who argue incessantly

but who chant loudly with the brooding chickens

“All power to those in cages!

“All power to those who make eggs!

 

Originally published in Sensations Magazine, 2002 (Spring): 10-11. Reprinted in Home Planet News 50 (Vol. 12, No. 4), Spring 2004: p. 4.

This poem is from Grief and Rage: An American Jew’s Poems on Palestine by Marxist Sociology section member Sam Friedman.  You can obtain one or more copies of Grief and Rage from him by e-mailing sam4wp@netscape.net.

By | 2018-06-08T11:29:27+00:00 September 13th, 2015|Blog articles, Submissions|Comments Off on What is an American Jew?