Sunday Poem

“The outsider is the safest and handiest repository for the hate one feels
toward God when one’s life go south.”
–A.R. Spokewell, Hard Times in Paradise: the Immigrant Ruse


Thank God they’re all gone
except for one or two in Clinton Maine
who come home from work
at Scott Paper or Diamond Match
to make a few crank calls
to the only Jew in New England
they can find

These make-shift students of history
whose catalogue of facts include
every Jew who gave a dollar
to elect the current governor
every Jew who’d sell this country out
to the insatiable Israeli state

I know exactly how they feel
when they say they want to smash my face

Someone cheated them
they want to know who it is
they want to know who makes them beg

It’s true Let’s Be Fair
it’s tough for almost everyone
to exaggerate the facts
to make a point

Just when I thought I could walk to the market
just when Jean the check-out girl
asks me how many cords of wood I chopped
and wishes me happy Easter
as if I’ve lived here all my life

Just when I can walk into the bank
and nod to the tellers who know my name
where I work who lived in my house in 1832
who know to a penny the amount
of my tiny Jewish bank account

Just when I’m sure we can all live together
and I can dine in their saltbox dining rooms
with the melancholy picture of Christ
on the wall their only consolation
just when I can borrow my neighbor’s ladder
to repair one of the holes in my roof

I pick up the phone
and listen to my instructions

I see the town now from the right perspective
the gunner in the glass bubble
of his fighter plane shadowing the tiny man
with the shopping bag and pointy nose
his overcoat two sizes too large for him
skulking from one doorway to the next
trying to make his own way home

I can see he’s not one of us

by Ira Sadoff

from New American Poets of the ‘90s;
David Godine publisher, Boston, 1991