Den­ton Vil­lage, Gravesend, Kent, Eng­land, pre-1905 postcard

Accord­ing to the leg­end the angels tell,

the angels stand­ing on our heads:

if all Jews prac­tice the Sabbath

at the same time, the mes­si­ah will come.

Out of the cor­ner store, out of the warehouse

and the box­ing ring, out of the showroom,

work­ing nights and week­ends and 

they can’t touch you, the angels.

They get as close as they can.

Clear-eyed cus­toms agents turned away,

at Ellis Island, the Tal­mud scholar
I descend­ed from,

my mother’s great-grandfather,

who had weak eyes,

but not his son the boxer—

in Eng­land for mon­ey in the ring,

but in Amer­i­ca with anyone

big­ger than him

who told him so—

until he could buy a dance

with Gin­ger Rogers,

his furs grace a Queen

for a Day.

He worked his way back

and forth across the Atlantic,

instead of pay­ing for a ticket

he’d serve as cab­in boy,

it was eas­i­er that way

to smug­gle his broth­ers over.

Once on his way back from England

he ran into one of his customers

who was on the same ship

and she went up to him and said

Mr. Got­tlieb” and he pro­ceed­ed to say

no, that wasn’t his name.

He gave a dif­fer­ent name.

That wasn’t who he was.

And he had her convinced

that some­where he had a twin,

because that wasn’t him.

And when he went back to work

and she came to his showroom

she had the most amaz­ing sto­ry to tell him

about the per­son she ran into on the ship

that looked exact­ly like him

and he had to have a twin somewhere,

that this was real­ly amazing.

You know, he couldn’t have been him.

No, no it wasn’t him.

I don’t think he ever told her.

I don’t think I ever told you that story.

This piece is a part of the Berru Poet­ry Series, which sup­ports Jew­ish poet­ry and poets on PB Dai­ly. JBC also awards the Berru Poet­ry Award in mem­o­ry of Ruth and Bernie Wein­flash as a part of the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards. Click here to see the 2019 win­ner of the prize. If you’re inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing in the series, please check out the guide­lines here.