Page 35 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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GREENSTEIN / THE HIDDEN MEZUZAH
27
and ghetto boundaries so that Klein’s personal experience be­
comes a biography of Jewry.
Irving Kristol’s telling phrase, “heart in, head out,” ith ref­
erence to New York’s intellectuals who longed for the world
of their fathers at the synagogue door but at the same time
looked for modern American values, seems particularly appro­
priate to Klein’s threshold position. For Klein does indeed shift
from his “Out of . . . into” construction in the first stanza to
the lintels of Ashkenazi’s market and the big synagogue door
with letters of gold:
Again they ring their little bells, those doors
Deemed by the tender-year'd, magnificent . . .
The lintels
ndy-poled
. . .
And the big synagogue door, with letters of gold.
MURIEL RUKEYSER
Like Klein’s repeated “Out of,” Muriel Rukeyser’s poem “The
Way Out” develops a double-layered perspective for historical
recovery. Rukeyser has admitted that the story that her mother’s
family are descended from Akiba is “unverifiable but a great
gift to a child.” This inheritance surfaces in “The Way Out”
where the
mezuzah
is unverifiable, but a great gift to the reader:
The night is covered with signs. The body and face of man, with signs,
and his journeys. Where the rock is split and speaks to the water; the
flame speaks to the cloud; the red splatter, abstraction, on the door speaks
to the angel and the constellations.
Rukeyser’s signs emerge from her biblical past; more specifically
the red splatter on the door refers to the blood of the sacrificed
paschal lamb associated with the Exodus and Passover. The sign
on the door signifies historic journeys, transitions from “The
Way Out” to the poem’s final line, “The song of the way in.”
The Jewish exodus from bondage results in entry to the dis­
covery of promise, and in between, the music of poetry re­
sounds: “All night down the centuries, have heard, music of
passage” and “We knew we had all crossed over when we heard
the song.” Rukeyser celebrates Buber’s communitas “from I to