Postcards from America

Postcards from America


Judith Kerman

Sample Poem

From Pictures at an Exhibition

Two Jews argue on a street
in Eastern Europe, late nineteenth
century.  Soot and grit, stone
buildings.  Draft horses haul
wagons along the cobbled streets.
Somewhere nearby, my grandfather, a young
radical, is helping to print pamphlets
and dreaming of revolution.  Last year,
he quit yeshiva, and he’s still arguing
with his father who prefers not to make
trouble.  In Moussourgsky’s music the big
pompous left hand of the piano
talks down to the little skinny
tinkling keys—in Ravel’s familiar
orchestration, low strings
and muted trumpet, a klezmer voice.
The big man has a white silk
cravat, a black homburg, velvet
lapels.  The little one has holes
in his shoes, frayed cuffs on a threadbare
jacket.  My grandfather is afraid
that he’ll be drafted, sent away
for 30 years of hard labor
and anti-Semitic harassment.  He’d
rather go to jail.  Moussourgsky
thinks they’re funny, these two,
the one who thinks he has power, the one
who doesn’t.

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Judith Kerman writes with substance, a wholesome acceptance of an imperfect world, oneself included. Her poems are an admirable reality-check for all of us. —Diane Wakoski