“Yom Kippur – East River, New York City” by Robert Frank. Gelatin Silver Print.
In Robert Frank’s photograph
of Orthodox Jews at the East River
five men in fedoras have their backs to the camera
while a boy in a kippah shows his right profile
against the Brooklyn shore.
Invisible and emphatic in this 1955 photograph
is the empty field where European Jewry used to stand.
And because all the figures in the picture
are facing away from us
(except for the boy in the kippah,
who is looking at something
the others are not)
we are made to occupy that emptiness,
are fixed in it
like ghosts watching the living move on.
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.
Mark Luebbers teaches at the Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield, Massachussets; Benjamin Goluboff at Lake Forest College near Chicago. Sometimes they write poems together. Mark and Ben’s speculative biographical verse has appeared in The Penn Review, The Blue Mountain Review, Eastern Iowa Review, Unbroken, and They Said: A Multigenre Anthology of Collaborative Writing from Black Lawrence Press. Mark’s collection Flat Light is forthcoming from Urban Farmhouse Press; Ben’s new book, Lives and Times, is forthcoming from Alternating Current Press.