Imagine my squat, blue-eyed Russian
grandfather, a stogie in his fist, a Stetson

on his head, a silk suit precisely vented,
ordered from a rabbi with a sideline and friends

in Hong Kong. Imagine his voyage here alone
at thirteen, the sea like a pasture of fescue combed

by the wind and him below decks in that carousel
of piss and vomit. Imagine the babies crying, the charred smell

of food cooked in steerage, the dark knots
of men smoking and gambling. Did they hate

Jews, too? Imagine him on Ellis Island with his wild Slavic face
and the space between his shoulders that always

itched, puffing out his chest for the doctors.
One deep breath put his name on the roster

Americanized—the ik chopped off of Magazinik
to make Magazine, a word he understands means a quick

book. He has no notion yet of luxury or charity, of leather
sofas or engraved plaques or dinners in honor

of. These will come after ice cream vending
and carpentry thin his voice and thicken his hands,

after he loses every cent in the Depression, and begins
his big ventures—Fort Stevens, Brandywine,

1000 Connecticut Avenue, that soaring granite address
that was like the White House for us,

a sparkling tower where he sat like a prince
thirty levels above the polished marble dance

floor of the lobby. O once more let him watch the phony
wrestlers on TV, his shoulders lurching with each throw.

I want to see him sop pleasure again from a bowl
with a heel of bread, dipping and slurping, his whole

face slick with broth and steam. And the deck
of nudie cards he kept hidden in the top right desk

drawer, redheads with tits like roses. And the slow
way he rolled up his “l”s on his tongue, as if savoring fish roe.

I remember how short he was behind the wheel of his prize—
they called them Jew canoes in those days—

how joyfully he packed us in on Sundays, plowing down the road,
letting the big car drift across the center line, like a parade.

Enid Shomer

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 13 Number 2, on page 42
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