[His father carved umbrella handles...]

By Charles Reznikoff 1894–1976 Charles Reznikoff
His father carved umbrella handles, but when umbrella   
    handles were made by machinery, there was only one
    man for whom his father could work.
The pay was small, though it had once been a good trade.
They lived in the poorest part of the ghetto, near the lots
    where people dump ashes.
His father was anxious that his son should stay at school and
    get out of the mess he himself was in. “Learning is the
    best merchandise,” he would say.
His father died; there was his mother to be taken care of. He
    taught in a school in the ghetto.
Some pupils came at nine and stayed until three; others came
    after public school and stayed until evening; most of the
    pupils came in the evening.
The courses were crammed, lasting a few months, pupils and
    teachers anxious to be rid of the matter as soon as   
    possible.
So he worked day and night, week-days and Sunday.

His mother was dead. It was cold in the street and windy. A
    dry snow had fallen and the feet of the walkers were
    turning it into brown sand.
He was forty.
Now he was free. To do what? He knew no one whom he
    cared to marry. And who would go into his poverty?
If he were to give up this work he knew so well, to what else
    could he turn?
He would just keep on. He had lost this world and knew there   
    was no other.

From The Poems of Charles Reznikoff by Charles Reznikoff, edited by Seamus Cooney. Reprinted by permission of Black Sparrow Books, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc. Copyright 2005 by Charles Reznikoff.

Source: Poems 1918-1975: The Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff (Black Sparrow Press, 1977)

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Poet Charles Reznikoff 1894–1976

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Subjects Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Jobs & Working, Activities

 Charles  Reznikoff

Biography

Emerson remarked that the best writers often have the shortest biographies. The genius “draws up the ladder after him,” and the world, which had consigned him to obscurity during his lifetime, “sees the works and asks in vain for a history.”
 
Whatever judgment may ultimately be passed upon him, not much more than his works is ever likely to be known of Charles Reznikoff. He left no fervent disciples. The record he wished to . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Jobs & Working, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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