Image by Dag Endresen

SUM­MER 1945

After Michael Palmer

All birds are hunger.

I have killed two stones for one bird.

A bird dies scream­ing in an attic.

Out­side: light and cumu­lus clouds.

Fur hats weigh heavy.

Mold dances alone.

Humil­i­a­tion and humil­i­ty are the same.

My hand is a stranger to my face.

I fly in the direc­tion of Plontsk,

or some oth­er such dustvillage.

The riv­er drinks itself, sand creatures

crawl dazed and frightened

to the edge of the woods,

meet­ing death in all sty­ro­foam splendor.

It breathes in the back of your face,

forks for eyes, disregarded.

His­to­ry has no name.

Tin stat­ues, call them: exit wounds.

Our pros­ti­tute is a bak­er, stone mill legs of a sophist.

The jack­al recites names.

A hell con­struct­ed from sandalwood

and wrap­ping paper.

O Joseph O Father

O down-torn Patriarch.

They were called the stolen souls

with no eyes.

This is how they were called.

The pros­ti­tute speaks of birds

with him­self.

Who asks for a name in these days.

Birds are nameless.

I have held one, dead as all plexiglas.

Fin­ger­nails own­ers of prophesy.

He asks of your flight history.

He asks of your flight.

And so, young sailor, talk poems at walls.

Wasps seep from the skin of Chosenias.


Belarus, 2019

It is not much of a revelation

to the flow­ers how we kill and

tend bunch­es of river­sticks and

sweet lit­tle hats for the wheat!

the wheat! it writhes and wags

its many tongues in our tender-

most open­ings lo before us lay

one thou­sand dri­vers with their

carts of ware their exposed bel-

lies the cat with its left eye left

gazes from the tow­er­top while

the wheat! the wheat! calls out

in anger the angel of evenings

tar­ries singing to her comrades

in arms to lay down beside the

the dri­vers and their husbands

to lay down beside the children

and their parcels of ants and in-

testines to lay along their banks

of ache and all the ten­der sense

that seems to have left this town

to escape the heat for the week

at our great uncle’s dacha nest-

led between a horned owl and

a rifle and a field of rifles while

the wheat! the wheat! winks at

its lit­tle friend its only sibling

while the dust from the water

ris­es like steam and the sky is

filled with gold­en dust and the

field grows rest­less with wheat

and the wheat and the children


and when we

rest­ed our feet

on clay banks

for just a day

all man­ners of

man­na splayed

under our toes

undi­gest­ed and

lone­ly and cold

orbs of doughy

spit and healthy

feath­ers brightly

engulfed in dew

the angle enoch

had over all men

wasn’t his beard

it was his broads-

words come­ly as

any tri­dent wield

as any lashed eye

as any rollicking

tomor­row god—

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.

Moriel Roth­man-Zech­er is the author of the nov­el Sad­ness Is a White Bird (Atria Books, 2018), which was a final­ist for the Day­ton Lit­er­ary Peace Prize and the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award, among oth­er hon­ors. His sec­ond nov­el, which fol­lows two Yid­dish speak­ing immi­grants from a fic­tion­al shtetl to Philadel­phia of the 1930s, is forth­com­ing from Far­rar, Straus and Giroux. Moriel’s work has been pub­lished in The New York Times, the Paris Review’s Dai­ly, Zyzzy­va Mag­a­zine, and else­where, and he is the recip­i­ent of the Nation­al Book Foun­da­tion’s 5 Under 35’ Hon­or, two Mac­Dow­ell Colony Fel­low­ships for Lit­er­a­ture (2017 & 2020), and a Wal­lis Annen­berg Helix Project Fel­low­ship for Yid­dish Cul­tur­al Stud­ies (20182019). Moriel lives in Yel­low Springs, Ohio, with his family.

Moriel is the cre­ator of the fic­tion­al char­ac­ters Math­ew L. Cohn, Marky Miller, and M. Pin­sky-Appel­baum as part of the series, What We Talk About When We Talk About the Golem.