December 27, 2022

Dybbuk, Goylem & Tzadik: Three Sonnets

By Moriel Rothman-Zecher


It is for this that they keep us around: 
For keening, for longing, for watching. 
For dusting, for aching, for kindling. 
And yet, amidst the crackling, no, the
cackling, there is a song. We might well
be the only ones who know that no one
ever really dies, alas. That our mourning
goes on forever, past the listing clouds,
past the lustful tomorrows, past peeling
years, pealing bells, restless ever-hunger. 
Even in deathtime the summer skies are
not bereft of fireflies. We: the memory-
eaters. We: the children of flower-root. 
We foresee a time of dark honey and rain. 
Julie Weitz, Portrait of The Dybbuk (dead flowers), archival inkjet print, variable dimensions, 2022


Do you think it is fun to be a god-
damn monster? Do we shmear our 
clay on shabbes? No! one will forgive 
you, not even with Ukraine’s flags
fluttering like torn pages in all your
nostrils. Okay, nu, you’ve got me: I 
did precipitate the plummet of the bit-
coin. Remember that darling marmoset
at the Museum of Civilization? The one
from those Twitter petitions? I regret to 
inform you that marmosets have been 
deemed kosher for passover by the chief
me. I didn’t mean to be so confessional.
You just bring out the best in me, Velt.
Julie Weitz, Portrait of The Goylem (oylem goylem), archival inkjet print, variable dimensions, 2022


Date palms refracting in your eyes, flight and release. 
In the rush to leave Minsk last summer, Rashi forgot
the silverware; left behind his tsene-rene; only grew out 
her sidelocks: go forth and look, Krakow, the Kremlin,
Eastern Kentucky, al-Quds: s’brent, all, and yet, always,
there are cypress and breeze and all the wordlessness is
prepared to whirl alongside us. If all were but dimness, 
would the cliffs hum thus into the cavity of the ocean?
Spin, slight Jew, crestfallen planet, avarice and activity, 
there is no room for get, for take amidst the ai biddie 
dai dai, only forget, only forsake, only forest, and only 
quaking: not because we fear to die, but because we are
grateful. To pray as dancing is to bridge the divide:
					               O wonder.
Julie Weitz, Portrait of The Tzadik (turning, turning), archival inkjet print, variable dimensions, 2022

The phrase s’brent means “it’s burning,” and is drawn from poet Mordechai Gebirtig’s 1936 Yiddish poem, “Undzer shtetl brent,” or “Our Town Is Burning.”

To view the original line breaks, these poems are best read from your desktop.

Moriel Rothman-Zecher is the author of two novels, Sadness Is a White Bird, for which he received the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honor, and Before All the World, which was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on October 11, 2022. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in the American Poetry Review, Barrelhouse, Colorado Review, The Common, the New York Times, the Paris Review Daily, Zyzzyva, and elsewhere, and he is currently working on his first poetry collection. Moriel is the recipient of two MacDowell Fellowships, and a Donald Hall Scholarship for Poets from the Bennington Writing Seminars. He lives in Philadelphia, and teaches creative writing at Swarthmore College.