Monday, March 23, 2009

Of Lionel by J. Lessing Teitler

esoteric stops
like you arriving unannounced so late on shabbas
unravel allegories of twinkling wit and trembling fear--
you have to be like a shaman
to see the signs

as it is above
it is below
its true ya know--

where did the missing shofar go?
place the chicken soup just so
4 more inches back to the right
on the shabbas tinfoil
over gas on low
so it won't evaporate tonight
that broth,
those misshapen heavenly matzoh balls
home cooked by the wife of an angel
brought all the way from Brooklyn--
look in the bottom of the fridge
can you believe all the stuff they bring me?
why me?

can you still hear Ziprin's voice?
the mameloschn inflections,
of Abulafia,
of old lower east side
co-mingled with bebop's crescendos,
a devout hipster confection
sacred and profane
is it any wonder Charlie Parker
would come to his table
to chill?

there he is stepping around frozen horses
dodging rats as big as cats
he didn't stay much in school
but he went to school
they let him pass--
when he was very young,
he didn't even know that people weren't Jewish

he rented horse and buggy, moved uptown
he drove it in the cold
to 3rd and 17th
he learned
that America had been good to the Jews

like some Valentino
Lionel, all lush eyebrows and luscious lips,
enchanted the Kansan girl
Marlon Brando stole away with
at the Actors Studio

sitting on the corner
upright on his folding stool
his advance toward shul
undeterred by East Broadway
sweltering in the summer sun
do you see his finger pointing
toward the window on the second floor,
he lived there as a boy
next to the House of the Sages,
or there
behind Bialystoker,
where the Home of the Sages stood
after the schism
enough room now to nap or break bread
where Harry taped the songs of his grandfather's world--
its not called Misirlou! the melody is aaaaaancient!

this spring will bring no seder
the spare one last year
like a comedic last supper--
don't woooorry about it!
you have to pour the wine so every cup overflows
you haaaave to!
a solitary sprig of parsley to share
we climb around each other
careful of Sheba's settee
to empty the collected drops of plagues into the commode--
periodic flushing
oddly not incongruous
with the bare joy of our convenant
the prayers covered
in his knowing sing-song drone

in this late winter of his passing over
he announced
I like turtles very much
and told me
my name meant planter of date trees
and that angels morph more easily than people
they are more elastic, right?

he spoke of
"highly confidential material
to soften our hearts. . . .
of flirting with terminating angels
beckoning to cross the river styx. . . .
thats how it happens, ya know
thats what they're called, ya know. . . .
what do you think, I'll be here forever?"

"this time is different
are you listening?
its not the doctor who cures you
he is the agent of heaven. . .
I have only one heart to lose for my people, thank god!"

j. lessing teitler
march 2009

1 comment:

  1. You may be interested to know that Lionel was the inspiration for the character "Lionel Abulafia" in the novel The Cabalist's Daughter written by Lower East Side writer Yori Yanover.