The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

From Living in the Past
By Philip Schultz


Mr. Schwartzman survived the Nazis but not Cuba Place, where
he takes long Saturday walks with his five dead children
who ride a carousel round the inside of his cracked eyeballs,
each a continent, a resume filed at Auschwitz, where Gertrud Kolmar,
his older sister's best friend, also was murdered, her poems
scratched in blood, flying over the Urals, singing, "Out of darkness
I come, a woman, I carry a child, and have forgotten whose it is."
He reads her at the back of his candlelit eyes, his kaddish voice
wears a tallis and skullcap, praising her soul's dark soliloquy: "I am
a continent that will sink without a sound into the sea."


I wish the dead would take their bodies with them when they die.
I wish they would not leave them behind. I wish they would take
their dreams and streets and cafes. That they would understand why
we cannot say or do with anyone else what we said and did with them.
Why we cannot forgive them for leaving us behind.


From Poet's Choice by Edward Hirsch in this morning's Washington Post on Schultz's book-length Living in the Past, an "exuberant, helpless, inquisitive and exalted tragicomedy...a Jewish coming-of-age story set in upstate New York ('This is Rochester, N. Y., in the fifties, when all the Displaced Persons/ move in and suddenly even the elms look defeated')."

Hirsch calls Schultz very witty and says he has "a comic obsessiveness ('At night I go outside and reminisce, like an idiot'), a Whitmanian chutzpah, and an elegiac tenderness." That last stanza above is one of the most devastating (and true) things I have ever read, though from the column it sounds like the entire novel-length poem (which I am going to buy ASAP) is painfully depressing. The narrator describes his father as someone who "'sleepwalks through/ the wilderness of the living room, Odysseus disguised as a Zionist,/ or a pickled beet.'" Hirsch says, "It is only partly a rhetorical question when the speaker wonders aloud, 'Didn't everyone live in a house where everyone feels cheated,/ ignored, and unredeemed?'"

My cable was down for over two hours this morning but it is back...yay! And my neighbors across the field out back must be having a party, because this is the view out the window:

My older son is having a crowd of friends over and we are working on ways to get them to Great Falls or someplace else other than the GameCube competition they have in mind for the afternoon, while my younger son has a birthday party at a laser tag place -- he will spend this glorious afternoon in a pitch-black room with no windows shooting at his friends. Sigh. I swore at one time that my kids were never going to those parties. Must get them out into the sunshine while I can...

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