According to the legend the angels tell,
the angels standing on our heads:
if all Jews practice the Sabbath
at the same time, the messiah will come.
Out of the corner store, out of the warehouse
and the boxing ring, out of the showroom,
working nights and weekends and
they can’t touch you, the angels.
They get as close as they can.
Clear-eyed customs agents turned away,
at Ellis Island, the Talmud scholar
I descended from,
my mother’s great-grandfather,
who had weak eyes,
but not his son the boxer—
in England for money in the ring,
but in America with anyone
bigger than him
who told him so—
until he could buy a dance
with Ginger Rogers,
his furs grace a Queen
for a Day.
He worked his way back
and forth across the Atlantic,
instead of paying for a ticket
he’d serve as cabin boy,
it was easier that way
to smuggle his brothers over.
Once on his way back from England
he ran into one of his customers
who was on the same ship
and she went up to him and said
“Mr. Gottlieb” and he proceeded to say
no, that wasn’t his name.
He gave a different name.
That wasn’t who he was.
And he had her convinced
that somewhere he had a twin,
because that wasn’t him.
And when he went back to work
and she came to his showroom
she had the most amazing story to tell him
about the person she ran into on the ship
that looked exactly like him
and he had to have a twin somewhere,
that this was really amazing.
You know, he couldn’t have been him.
No, no it wasn’t him.
I don’t think he ever told her.
I don’t think I ever told you that story.
This piece is a part of the Berru Poetry Series, which supports Jewish poetry and poets on PB Daily. JBC also awards the Berru Poetry Award in memory of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash as a part of the National Jewish Book Awards. Click here to see the 2019 winner of the prize. If you’re interested in participating in the series, please check out the guidelines here.
Joshua Gottlieb-Miller is the author of The Art of Bagging, out now, and Dybbuk Americana, forthcoming fall 2024.