March 03, 2006

anatomy of a yiddish word

anatomy of a yiddish word

a yiddish sentence snakes across the page
looking for argument, its tail
nipped by the head of the next
too impatient to flourish a capital.

in face to face debate
the loser is s/he
who stops for a breath.
my score is a shrug.

the name i was given
(transliterated) charna
inhabits in me the rare soul
of my mother's tante charna

against whom not a single cousin
ruminating fodders of discord
spit any green-acid drop
of taynis (rhymes with minus).

if a yiddish noun might earn
honor of capitalization,
nominate this one: taynis
inside a person is the organ that grinds

ingested seeds of insult (riffle
moneys, invitations, in-laws)
into grudges vital to family peristalsis
as gravel in a bird's cloaca.

taynis chokes like a boa constrictor
but does not kill: if cain had simply
nurtured taynis towards his brother--
squinted corner of eye,

uptwisted corner of lip,
scorned to eat his apples and beans
at the same table set with the other's
barbecued lamb--then

abel would have lived.

by Charlotte Mandel
this poem first appeared in Journal of New Jersey Poets, Issue 42, 2005

Posted by dwaber at March 3, 2006 04:08 PM