Aaron Samuels – Poetry

THE BLACKJEWISH BROTHER or 
TASHLIKH

ceremony: on Rosh ha-Shana, Jews go to a river and symbolically cast
their sins [sometimes represented by bread crumbs] into the water


-Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin



The bread was porous and full of bay water, buoy-like and
sacred:  a god signal for the water birds, that although food
was not sinless, it was present.  The dock was semi-solid, a
plasma anchored to a source unclear.  We were Jewish
wanderers, repaying our debt of manna to the birds who had
forgotten flight, to the water which cleans (is) everything

The Devin inside the Devin, who was to breathe naked
amongst the lily-roots, held squid magic, braided carelessly
from the ink blots in his skull cap, dangling across his
shoulders like the dead things on the mountains between Sinai
and Masada.

We are a dry, desert people.  Sophie was  specially desert,
hammering off stale wonder bread pieces with her front teeth
and chuckling them into the ripples, occasionally swallowing
one by accident, or by secret purpose, or she was a duck.

The dock is whole of families, throwing away that which
would have been thrown away elsewhere.  Crumbs from last
year’s houses tucked into our trousers, and a rams horn
quivering by our lips, a god signal for the water birds, and the
other birds, and the Jews who had acquired too many wonder-
breads in their trousers last year.

In our old language there was less difference between bread,
and sin, and god, but I don’t know our old language.  Grandma
Laura Levy threw it away with the breadcrumbs.  So I hollow
the ram’s horn and blow a fishlike apology into the water
rippling all of the vowels hidden beneath the trembles in my
words.  My people have named it a Shofar, and have been
blowing it so long that we argue over the reason why.

Sophie, and Adam, and Rebecca, and Isaac, and Grandma,
were all there at the dock and all had their bread crumbs and

Shofars, and things to blow about.  And Devin held mine
and his, in the front pockets of his broken autumn jacket.  He
squeezed the ram pieces into holes not whole enough to hold
them, and he knew this, and we knew this, and more and more
breadcrumbs appeared in my pockets every second the horns
lay there.

We all heard the plop and bubble of something not bread-like
plummeting into the mud water, my pocket, now overflowing
with bread crumbs, yeasting around my legs and my finger-
nails, the only connection to our mountains now gurgling with
the flightless water birds.   By the time we all looked at the
dock again, the fins and scales had already taken form.

As if the eternal light inside of Devin’s underwear had blown
and rippled away the fabric connecting Devin to this world.
And inside this Devin, a smaller Devin, fish-man, water-titan
unflinchingly dove naked off of the dock and into the brown
water cloud amongst the flightless birds, the breadcrumbs
scratching my skin from the inside

The next book none of us expected.
Devin’s fish head, a genesis emerging from the bay swamp.
A ram’s horn in each hand and bread crumbs in his mouth.

I imagined him a fourteen year old boy with corn rows,
I imagined him skinny and fragile and guilty,

and willing to jump into any sludge puddle to avoid his
brothers disappointment.  But we all saw a fish titan,
a Moses of sorts, presenting the ram’s horn to his people like
commandments, standing in a puddle of bread crumbs, happy
to have something to blow about.
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