Thursday Poem

Ode to Jacob Blinder

His face stared out into the living room
of my grandparents’ walk-up on E. 13th.
After they died my father hung him
on our staircase wall. Bearded and dour,
great grandfather is now mine, he watches me make coffee,
scour pans, dance my sweetheart
across the floor.

Of Jacob Blinder, I know two things:
he never made it out of Russia,
and of his three daughters,
only the oldest escaped. A constellation of sorrow
followed her as she lay under hay
in a boxcar across Poland, trailed her
on the boat to Buenos Aires.

Tell me, Miriam, how did you stow his portrait—
rolled in your coat hem, a lining in
your satchel, the lost world bound
to your skirt waist?

I am named with his ‘J’—
though he was surely a Yakov—
but when the ocean swallowed
a bitter mouthful, it spit back the old language
at the retreating shore.
When only one thing remains, it isn’t hard
to know what to carry.

by Janlori Goldman
from Split This Rock