It should upset us all that any reputable news service should wonder, for even one second, whether floods and storms around the globe in our times are caused by climate change. To wonder is to waste time. There is nowhere to hide. Not only are our weather patterns caused by climate change, but one might say that everything we do— eating breakfast, sleeping with the AC on, going to work— is both caused by and is the cause of climate change. Try as we might to remove ourselves from the heat, fires, and floods by reporting on them (especially as they happen to other people) it must be understood that nothing is happening to “other people.” There can be no together when there is no apart— together and apart both illusions, the truth lying in our decisions and actions each step of the way. We are all to blame and we are all to suffer. In other words: where do you find yourself at this moment? The Bubbel of Zitmah finds himself lost and searching for answers. // From where do anxious thoughts arise? thought the Bubbel of Zitmah. To be seen nowhere, not on the roof of his father’s house nor under the Shabbos table. And yet . . . and yet. Across from his nose sat a groushveil, toothy and though completely naked, unmistakably disheveled. “How can this be?” asked the Bubbel, “For isn’t this the house of my father, long deceased? And isn’t that the smell of my mother’s bulvitchille soup, and she long passed as well?” The house was sturdy as it had been during the summers and winters of the Bubbel’s youth. And yet only moments ago he was sitting alone under the desert moon. If you must know, the truth is that the Bubbel had fallen asleep upon a pillow of small stones. And this, as you may have guessed, was his dream. But a dream is nothing to spit old grapes at. A dream is our connection to secrets of shamayim, in which shadows dance and fleeting notions rule with an iron fist. “Ahha,” said the groushveil with no inflection at all. His face gray like stone. His tail stinking like rotten rhilstov. “And whose clothes are these?” asked the Bubbel, increasingly concerned. “And I cannot move!” shouted the Bubbel, attempting to break free from the invisible chains that bound him. “Ahha, aha,” said the groushveil with no inflection at all. His teeth glowing like the moon. His stomach full like the big, round sun. The commentary suggests that one cannot enter into the mountain of fire without passing through many gates. This the Bubbel knew. And at the same time, without ever having passed through these gates before, the Bubbel did not know. “I know you,” said the great Bubbel of Zitmah, “you are the Devil. For you dress and speak like the Devil, and you take me into memories as the Devil is said to do.” “Not the Devil, but a devil,” said the groushveil with no inflection at all, ears wiggling like small worms, chin pointing like a dirty icicle. “You and yours—always pronouncing the ‘the’ when an ‘a’ will do. As if you dress for a wedding while scuttling out in the middle of the night to piss. I have millions of brothers and billions of sisters.” “A devil,” repeated the Bubbel. At that moment thousands of tiny eyes peeked through the dark corners of his nightmare. Not one, but thousands. Never ‘the,’ always ‘a.’ Thousands, millions, billions. This was the Bubbel’s second great gleaning. Distracted was the Bubbel, for a lesser deamon sitting beside him began to eat from the Shabbos table with great delight. “Aha, hello!” said the small creature, kugel dripping out of its tiny mouth, “shalom aleichem to you, my friend!” The small creature put out a hand to shake that of the Bubbel while its other hand plunged into the white, creamy sauce that bathes the herring. But the Bubbel did not want to shake the little hand. The lesser deamon, noticing the Bubbel’s reservations, said: “Don’t worry, my brother, everything here is free!” and accidentally knocked over a glass, which poured forth wine, which mixed with blood and fish sauce across the white tablecloth. // Upon waking the Bubbel of Zitmah thanked the ribono shel oylam for his wakefulness and prayed. He had been sent by the village to find a cure for the changing weather. Storms, floods, and drought, all at the wrong times. Surely, said the old crones, a seer in the mountains will have an answer. Most certainly, said the young machers at Ziggfield’s sheteibel, a river sage would have a solution ready. And even a toddler had told him to get help from afar. Go, said Ruvkeh who was not yet able to drink from a cup. Go find us help in tall grasses, for there are bugs in the grass, and a bug can live forever! Who had told little Ruvkeh that a bug can live forever we will never know. But it was clear to the Bubbel that it was time to journey away from Zitmah to find a cure for his land and for his people. For many days and many nights the Bubbel trekked. He stayed at dusty inns and avoided the glances of unbecoming nonbelievers. And soon enough he lost his map, which didn’t seem to be of help at all. And then one day, a bit drunk from a tall night with strangers (none righteous, but one must be merry on the Sabbath!) he stumbled upon the most curious thing. A mountain of fire. // There is no word for volcano in the Toreh, and so what stood before the Bubbel’s very eyes confounded him. “Let me check my texts . . .” said the Bubbel to nobody in particular. I will spend a moment now to give shape to our hero. The Bubbel’s beard was full but not overbearing, his nose pronounced but not obstructive. A young man on the verge of becoming middle-aged. The innkeeper’s wife had complimented his sincere and dumb smile. He wore a long gray coat and a large gray hat matching those in the fashion, and so too, his socks were charcoal black. His sidelocks were long and he wore no glasses as such things had not yet made it to the Hugpie Provence. He carried a full satchel. He was skinny and not strong, but his determination would carry him where his strength would not. “Let me see, let me see . . .” said the Bubbel rummaging through pages of Talmud, Secrets of the Angels, and Pentateuch. The sky was clear and birds glided overhead. No wind came to disturb his search. But the word could not be found. There were mountains, and there was fire, but no story or secret containing one object that was the combination of both. “Well,” said the Bubbel, after many hours of study. “If I cannot find the word for what this is in the Toreh, then this thing simply cannot be!” And with that the Bubbel entered a cave at the foot of the volcano. You see, there were already footsteps leading in and it seemed the most sensible thing to do. // But alas! Upon setting his sights on the footstep path towards the mountain, the Bubbel found that his feet were entangled with snakes! Panic beset his nerves. “Fergroshveight!” shouted the Bubbel, which was a bad word in every known language. When is a bad word a good word? When the murderer was murdered? When the rapist was raped? When the arsonist was burned? When the drowner was drowned? Soon it was clear: there were no snakes at all, only shadows from a nearby tree. Upon realizing that the snakes were not snakes, he remembered each and every member of his village of Zitmah. Every man, woman, and child. Every dimple, eye, and grin. The memory was not clear, however, for all that he could remember was the image of their shadows. // At the base of the volcano it was hot. Hotter than the hottest day of harvest. The rocks looked to be smoking, and the air was like small knives. But as the Bubbel of Zitmah followed the footsteps into the cave at the base of the mountain, and as the light grew dimmer until it was all but completely gone, the air became cooler, like a fresh drink. Cold borscht on a hot day can cure even the reddest boil, the old Zeydes of the village would say. What does a young man do in the depths of darkness underneath a flaming mountain without any light at all? Follow his nose? Thought the young Bubbel for no reason at all. And at that moment the tail of a smell came to beckon him, first left and then right, then left and down, and then deeper down and spiraling as if down a stairwell without end. And all through the journey the Bubbel never did stumble, for his feet were like foxes gliding through the meadow at dawn before the sun has risen to make demands of the day. And the smell? What was it? “Gut Shabbos, gut Yuntif . . .” gasped the Bubbel, in awe. Because yes, it was the smell of Yetzel’s cholent. Was it the fifth day of Shabbos already? // Believe you me, the Bubbel was surprised to find the deeper he went towards the smell of his youth the less of a Bubbel he knew himself to be. The world expands without the use of our normal senses (of which the Rebbe of Nimno says there are only eight, but which the Rebbe of Glimlot refutes: we have at least twelve senses, as Jacob had twelve sons!). Deeper and deeper into the furnace under the hot and fiery mountain, and the Bubbel of Zitmah became an impression of himself. He walked and walked, slid down rocky crags and loose stones. The smell of Yetzel’s cholent never diminished. It was an everlasting smell. Without the use of one’s normal senses, time reveals itself to be a farce, and space reveals itself to be as present inside as outside, for there is no difference from the perspective of the dark. Inside of what? Outside of what? At once there was light. Looking down onto his hands the Bubbel saw the long fingers of his mother, making waving motions before the Shabbos candles. His body was her body, his smell was her smell, his dream was her dream. The sounds of the Shabbos candle prayers harmonized with a mewing of the cat who hid beside her house. At once the Bubbel (who was his mother) was the cat, seeking shelter from the cold. “I am hungry,” mewed the Bubbel, who was his mother, who was the cat. “I am thirsty for water or milk,” the cat cried out. And then he was the grass all around the house. Brittle and sharp, yellow and white, dehydrated as dictated by the resources provided at this time of oylam’s journey round the sun. As the grass he swayed this way and that way, without exhaustion or care. I am the bowl that holds the food of birds, he thought cheerfully. I am the carpet that adorns the earth for the majesty of all those honored to walk, he thought joyously. And then he was the sky, and not only the sky that we can see but the sky that we cannot see at all. Deep into the darkness, where the creatures who have no hands, feet, eyes, or ears reside, where there is not a neshomah for one thousand kilometers who has heard of Zitmah, or the story of the Exodus from Egypt, or of a Jew at all—ay voh! Yet even from the perspective of the sky, infinite and everlasting, the smell of Yetzel’s cholent did not diminish. This much was clear: the smell of cholent was here to stay. “You will stay here,” said the Bubbel of Zitmah. “You will stay here,” said his very own mother. “You will stay here,” said the cat who found shelter beside the house. “You will stay here,” said the grass, who adorned the earth like a majestic carpet. “You will stay here,” said the sky whose breadth knew no bounds. And here the Bubbel did stay. Deep inside the heart of the fiery mountain, which the goyishe world demands to call a volcano, but has no place in the Toreh and so, is as invisible as the naked clothes of King Solomon, who was a good man for his time. // There is more to this story, as you might imagine is the case. From the perspective of the volcano, none of these events matter. Not the cholent, nor the Bubbel, nor the temperature. From the perspective of the volcano, there is no volcano, for where does a volcano start and end? At the smoke that drifts into the air and becomes a cloud which transfers rain and is drunk by animals and plants alike? Who then, is not a volcano? Worlds within worlds, thought the Bubbel of Zitmah, suddenly aware of the most important thing. And out from the top of his head shot a fountain of lava.
To view the original line breaks, this poem is best read from your desktop.
Ariel Abrahams is an Aquarius and a constant experimenter. He creates artworks as medicine that take form in group gatherings, long walks through the night, writing, drawing, sculpture, and sound. He has been a resident at greeceworks and Flux Factory. He currently spends his time learning from his one-year-old Zoey.