Poems by Erika Meitner

By Other Means

Erika Meitner By Other Means

You return the Torah to the ark

and I think of the distant past now thirty years
since I was a child and used to count men’s
hats in my grandparents’ Yiddish synagogue

the moment everyone rose up eins tsvey dray fir
but not the ladies they stood but I didn’t
count them finf zeks zibn akht as they mostly

wore latticed doilies instead of hats pinned
to their wigs—scraps of lace folded like wings
about to take flight or flat as an outstretched

hand conferring a webbed blessing nayn tsen
elf tsvelf before whom did we stand?   the male
Rabbi, the male Cantor and his oyoyoys

draytsn fertsn fuftsn zekhtsn the ark shuts
in a flash of white, a curtain’s pull, an arm
crossing the heart the chest zibetsn akhtsn
nayntsn tsvantsik a house for the body closes

is closed.  Zichron Moshe Adath Israel
Ward Avenue Shul and who knows what
shteebles are demolished are churches now

this second post-war shtetl and there it is
ladies and gentlemen the Bronx is burning
is burned the congregation sighs into their seats

and I think of cousin Freddy’s story
about the Rabbi (name long forgotten)
who would call out Yankee scores during

high holiday davening ein un tsvantsik
tsvey un tsvantsik everyone could hear the ballpark
crowd cheering through the open doors


Erika Meitner is the author of three books of poems—most recently, Ideal Cities (HarperCollins, 2010), which was a 2009 National Poetry Series winner, and Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls (Anhinga Press, 2011). Her poems have appeared most recently in Best American Poetry 2011, Tin House, The New Republic, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Erika Meitner is  currently an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech, where she teaches in the MFA program.




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