Megillah: A Poem is a Container

The fake flowers in this café booth
sit in an old jar (in real water?)
but I tug and they don’t budge.
Resin, or plastic? It looks
concentrated, needing to be changed.

The café itself a container for my hour,
my morning.  What is facebook
a container for? My friends talk about
Netanyahu, and about the weather.

Rachel’s roof leaks.
A 20 year-old snow record
is going to be broken in Boston.
I remember my children’s second year
Nowhere clear enough for a stroller to go
We took them to the mall to run around.

Can we contain Iran?
What does my leaky memory hold
from that year? When I leave this café
my friends and I will read
The Book of Esther, in Yiddish.

I remember the Boston Globe
depicting Robert Parish with a snorkel.
This week Brian Shaw got fired,
and Lenny Bias is still dead.
Who remembers all these names?
Where once was love, the Celtics roster.

Half-way between that container and this,
at Beth Jacob, in Minneapolis,
Rabbi Allen all gung-ho
about the invasion of Iraq.
gloated from the pulpit

about Uday and Qusay
Saddam Hussein’s captured sons.
He was drunk, on roller skates,
I dressed in sackcloth and ashes
and sat in the back.

A kippah, a nuclear weapon, separatism,
assimilation, annihilation.
Old women, bitter over intermarriage,
pushing their grandchildren away.

Does any of this make sense?
The New York Yiddish modernists
did not hold a poem as a container.
The mind, they said, is all we know
But concentrated beauty is a lie.

Names resist decay. Mordechai,
the guy I dressed as once,
a Jew named for a Babylonian god.
Esther is from ‘star’ or maybe ‘Ishtar’.
Read the story. We were never pure.

The oldest human things we have
are shards. I look to Yiddish words,
German, Aramaic, baked in blood,
turned on the wheel of exile; they endure
longer than mouths. The residue
of what they once contained remains.

David R. Forman. March, 2015

First page of Megillah Esther, from Yehoash's TaNaKh.

First page of Megillah Esther, from Yehoash’s TaNaKh.

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