January 30, 2009


The scribe’s quill
moves across the page
letter by letter
entering deep into the curve
of the letter’s arm, the arcing
middle, the foot that opens
word to word.
Each letter beckons
to the next—the space between
is holy.

Cleansed first in ritual bath,
prepared to write the name of G-d,
the scribe controls the ink
from right to left; sings out loud
for every letter. Movement is headlong,
contained in pure intention—
the essence of each letter, black.

Deep in ink, thorn, quill,
the word can make safe passage.
Meaning will come later,
when reader comes to study
or to pray.

The sofer’s arm moves across the page
from source to word.

—Carmi Soifer
previously published in "Between the Sounds Anthology", Volume 2, 2000.

Posted by dwaber at 01:56 PM

January 29, 2009


          for Tino Villanueva

In my friend’s story,
he is a migrant worker.
It is a true story.

He carries that small village of pain
over Texas ground
picking okra,

one generation removed
from the hurt
of cotton.

In town he is
pinned back against plyboard,
a laughed-at Chicano.

How did this man grow?
He will tell you:
I built myself

word by word
scaling language
like buildings,

rotating sounds
under my tongue

I could speak.

—Carmi Soifer
previously published in "Summer House Review Anthology", Volume 1, 2002

Posted by dwaber at 01:10 PM

January 28, 2009


Afraid it sounds too much like poetry,
I start again climbing four hundred steps
in a foreign clime looking at views.

A woman descending tells me,
Be careful; they will knock you on the head
and take your gold.

Fearing they will not recognize
I wear no gold chains, I nonetheless
climb the stairs again and again.

—Carmi Soifer
a different version of this poem appeared in "Slow-Dancer", volume 26, 1991

Posted by dwaber at 03:33 PM