Page 32 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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24
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
visible.” An invisible
mezuzah
appears in “Dos Oysleydikin (The
Emptying)”: “the shadow of an empty name still on their doors/
shadai and shadow shattering the mother tongue.” So phonet­
ically close to shadow, “shadai” stands for God’s name written
on the
mezuzah's
case. The three letters
(shin, dalet, yod)
represent
Shomer Delatot Yisrael
— God’s function of guarding over the
doors of the children of Israel. Indeed, the fourth letter of the
alphabet,
dalet,
has the appearance of a door or open mouth
of mother tongue. Hidden and visible, Jerome Rothenberg’s
paradoxical
mezuzot
offer points of entry to his tradition.
The opening paragraph of Rothenberg’s
A Big Jewish Book
introduces the architecture for a hidden
mezuzah
in the domicile
of mystery and creativity:
There was a dream that came before the book, & I might as
well tell it. I was in a house identified by someone as THE
HOUSE OF JEWS, where there were many friends gathered,
maybe everyone I knew. Whether they were Jews or not was
unimportant: I was
8c
because I was I had to lead them through
it. But we were halted at the entrance to a room, not a room
really, more like a great black hole in space. I was frightened
& exhilarated, both at once, but like the others I held back before
that darkness. The question came to be the room’s name, as if
to give the room a
name
would open it. I knew that, & I strained
my eyes
8c
body to get near the room, where I could feel, as
though a voice was whispering to me, creation going on inside
it. And I said it was called CREATION.
To name is to confer identity: God’s name on the
mezuzah
cover
marks the Jewish dwelling where the poet identifies with his
or her particular history. Halting at the two-directional thresh­
old, ambivalent Jewish poets explore the darkness and recreate
their own scrolls at the entrance. They write their updated mes­
sages on the gate and doorposts of their modern American
dwellings, and the resultant tensions between guardians of the
faith and the avant-garde animate their art.
KARL SHAPIRO
The distinguished American poet Karl Shapiro has written
“The Mezuzah,” a poem about two Christians who come to his
door to hand out religious literature: