Page 37 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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Starladen Babylon
buzzes in his blood, an ancient
pulse. The rivers
run out of Eden.
Before Adam
Adam blazes.
The darkness of history carries back to earlier exiles and ex­
pulsions, and the poem concludes with the old man addressing
his neighbors who are as ghostly as he is. He assures them that
“it’s alright,” that there are “many corridors of the soul / that
are dark also./ Shalom.” Throughout Jewish history the slanted
watches over stairwells, dark corridors of the soul, and
other passages. Although Levertov’s
A Door in the Hive
has little
to do with
Levertov’s statement about the artist’s need
“to live with a door of one’s life open to the transcendent” brings
us a step closer.
From the title of one of her collections of poetry,
The Fact
of a Doorframe
(1974), one might expect to find examples of
the subliminal
in Adrienne Rich’s poems. “At the Jewish
New Year” revolves around spatial and temporal thresholds:
For more than five thousand years
This calm September day
With yellow in the leaf
Has lain in the kernel of Time
While the world outside the walls
Has had its turbulent say . . .
This contrast between inner Jewish calm and external turbu­
lence at the beginning of the poem culminates in a vision of
which are the counterparts of
memory on Jewish
foreheads and arms next to the heart:
Let our forgetting begin
With those age-old arguments
In which their minds were wound
Like musty phylacteries.
Rich’s other poems about doorframes are less overtly Jewish,
even when her memory recurs in “From an Old House in Amer­