BY DANIEL BLOKH
Runner-up for the 2019 Adroit Prize for Poetry, selected by Franny Choi
So a Jew walks onto a ship. And then another Jew walks onto a ship. Jews keep walking onto the ship because they’ve just been expelled from England. The ship captain sets sail, but soon grounds his ship on a sandbank in the Thames and convinces his passengers to go for a walk with him. When they do, he sneaks back on board his ship and leaves the crowd behind to drown, telling them that they should cry to Moses for help. And someone in my class finds this surprising, doesn’t know how long we’ve felt we are a rattish people, gnawing at floorboards, best within water. Where else does history repeat itself so cleanly, so insistently, but in our bones? Our bruised bones, our cracked from weight and walk bones, our cracked beneath a bullets’ bark bones, stacked bones, in the fire blackened bones and ashed bones, carried skyward bones and thrown bones, finding stillness or else thrown again. And someone in my class finds this surprising. Can’t make a joke, spin wit out of this weight. Turns to me and says something like I didn’t know about that. No one knows our bones but us. The way they rattle when they hear the wind winding away. The way they shiver with the rising tide.
BY DANIEL BLOKH
My sister says her Jew is dirt. The word
a mud so many countries trampled under
foot. The word a weight on many shoes.
No matter how much scrubbing, rain
would bring the Jew back to the cities,
grimy puddles of Jew scattering the town,
muck that clung to underside of history.
This is the history my sister learned.
Of course she didn’t want to tell her husband
she was Jew, and when she did, couldn’t believe
he didn’t shudder at the hated pit of her
or try to shake it off. How could he not see
she was dirt? How could he not see? Her Jew
was filthy hands, her Jew was dustcaked feet
shuffling from continent to continent that wished
to wash them off, her Jew was muddy chanting
in a throat, her Jew was last names scrubbed
away to hide all evidence of dirt, her Jew
was sticky stains that every country
tried to wash their hands of. I understand
my sister. How can we make sense of that
except believing we are dirt? How can we be
so cursed if we don’t deserve it?