from A Short History of Israel, Notes and Glosses

By Charles Reznikoff 1894–1976 Charles Reznikoff

                                          XI
A hundred generations, yes, a hundred and twenty-five,
had the strength each day
not to eat this and that (unclean!)
not to say this and that,
not to do this and that (unjust!),
and with all this and all that
to go about
as men and Jews
among their enemies
(these are the Pharisees you mocked at, Jesus).
Whatever my grandfathers did or said
for all of their brief lives
still was theirs,
as all of it drops at a moment make the fountain
and all of its leaves a palm.
Each word they spoke and every thought
was heard, each step and every gesture seen,
by God;
their past was still the present and the present
a dread future’s.
But I am private as an animal.
 
I have eaten whatever I liked,
I have slept as long as I wished,
I have left the highway like a dog
to run into every alley;
now I must learn to fast and to watch.
I shall walk better in these heavy boots
than barefoot.
I will fast for you, Judah,
and be silent for you
and wake in the night because of you;
I will speak for you
in psalms,
and feast because of you
on unleavened bread and herbs.

Charles Reznikoff, “A Short History of Israel, Notes and Glosses: XI” from The Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff, 1918-1975. Edited by Seamus Cooney. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Charles Reznikoff. Reprinted by permission of Black Sparrow Books, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publishers, Inc.

Source: The Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff 1918-1975 (Black Sparrow Press, 2005)

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Poet Charles Reznikoff 1894–1976

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Subjects Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Family & Ancestors, Religion, Judaism, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 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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SUBJECT Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Family & Ancestors, Religion, Judaism, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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