How many times did he tell me of walking to the civil service exam
down melting sidewalks of Baltimore to get all the questions right, to
finish first and be the only one that day to shine?
A Zionist in vain who searched Israel for his family's holy path,
a path perhaps he saw in the libraries and museums he took his
children after a week's work and Saturday morning's call to
he read Spinoza and raised a battered forefinger in his retelling, a
poor ecclesiast to boast in monologue of all he'd gathered as he
put ten rubber bands around a bag of chips and we nodded at
And in the last decade of his life he came upon us in our shady
suburb, visiting longer than anyone wanted, sneering hurt from our
grudges to sulk away folded in the aluminum lawn chair up from Florida.
I didn't understand the ancient words our Rabbi spoke across the
cemetery's lawn any more than I knew why my grandfather had
poured ketchup over
everything he ate, but I felt those words and cried before standing in
line to trowel dirt on
We are the light of the Lord." We will help you to he on your way.
As he rode the mail train up the northeast corridor organizing zip
codes, the engine and freight cars rushing then screeching down in
what was he thinking when he threw out letter bags onto the train
platform? About Spinoza and his many-headed God, about the equity of
in an arc? He must have been a completely different person each day by
Who then is given me? The worker, the philosopher? The pedant, the
He did tell me Stop your reading and go out
, called me Absent- minded
when I left my crystal radio project out on the kitchen telephone
yet I'd seen him leaning into the dial plugged into its tinny
earphone, mouth half open, with his furrowed brow and bony nose I have
shadow of tuning in the old world, hearing a new and slighter one.