from “Yossele: a tale in poems”

& Sari Krosinsky


(The Golem)

“These people are obsessed with blood”
Master says.
“A joke, if you think about it.
They hate us for doing a thing we’re forbidden to do.”

—so driven to explain himself.
I could say something
(if I could say something)
about that story you tell
of the lamb’s blood preserving your children.
Explain yourself to the lamb, not to me.
Why not?
You imagine that wouldn’t understand you either.

All I require are my instructions.
If I see anyone carrying a sack that might contain a dead child
through the Ghetto after curfew,
I am to knock them out, tie them up,
take them to the doors of City Hall
and drop them.
This has happened already a few times
and once a man yelled out because when he stabbed me
nothing changed.
It was the lack of blood terrified him.

Defend your deeds if you must
to someone who has hope of success
when he listens for his heartbeat:
someone whose heat comes from inside:
not to the blank bodies
of the sacrificed.


Chant unto the Eternal, with the harp and the voice of melody

(The Rabbi)

The boy chants low and lovely as a cello.
Hebrew syllables dance on his tongue
with a grace I haven’t heard
in the most celebrated cantors.
Someday he will outstrip them
all. Today, I can hardly listen.

Beyond the schoolroom window, ice drips
from branches dazzled with sunlight.
Soon, the trees will be naked, then budding.
Only G-d can create life that renews.

On Shabbas, this boy will be a man.
The way the creature eyes
the boys at each bar mitzvah, I think
he would like the same. I didn’t believe
I could offer him that. Only G-d can create.

I made him to be a thing, no more thinking
than the doves chirping along
with the chant. I have seen him touch
the pages of the prayer book
as if he would swallow them
if it could make the words his own.

When I blew life into his mouth,
my frame quaked
with G-d’s own thunder.


Find “Yossele: a tale in poems” and other books by Robert Arthur Reeves and Sari Krosinsky at

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