Page 41 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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GREENSTEIN / THE HIDDEN MEZUZAH
33
posed by
mezuzot
on gates, rabbis and writers may open them­
selves to the world and reclaim both image and law.
Nemerov’s “Returning to Europe” belongs within a pattern
of American-Jewish poetry where the innocent American re­
turns to the Old World, not in a Jamesian sense, but in a tragic
sense of loss after the Holocaust. Although the poet’s roots may
have been in Europe, that past has been eradicated. He finds
A room in one of those ruined houses
I must not enter. Any door
Might be the one, and I keep on
Opening every door I see
Although I know I am afraid.
Fear and forbidden entry accompany the American, while every
door carries its unmentioned
mezuzah.
In
The Gates of Wrath
Allen Ginsberg poses a question relating
to the hidden mezuzah:
Who is the hungry mocker of the maze,
And haggard gate-ghost, hanging by the door,
The double mummer in whose hooded gaze
World has beckoned unto world once more?
These lines from “Please Open the Window and Let Me In”
(1949) pinpoint the outsider’s position shortly after World War
II. The ghost of history lingers at the threshold, awaiting a re­
birth, “double” because divided.
CHARLES REZNIKOFF
With Charles Reznikoff one expects to find some explicit ref­
erence to the
mezuzah,
and indeed “Israel” concludes with “you
shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon
your gates.” Implicitly “Autobiography: New York” places
Reznikoff at a threshold for viewing the outer world:
I like the sound of the street
but I, apart and alone,
beside an open window
and behind a closed door.
Reznikoff s proximity to the
mezuzah
separates him and marks
his particular difference from universal surroundings.
Though a far different poet from Reznikoff, Louis Zukofsky