Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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tenses intensify the drama at transom and dooryard where lay­
ers of shadows, more substantial stones, hidden messages and
memories, and counsellors and covenants all interact. Poet and
reader search for the vague place of origins.
“Entering Doorways” re-enacts this liminal drama in which
the poet quests after identity. The refrain of “exchanging
rooms” underscores the development of selfhood from silence
to traces of old talk — lost words that need to be recovered
for meaning:
Entering doorways
Exchanging rooms
The last room leaving
Lost words ringing
In the head clinging
Seeking silence
The silence clanging
This side the threshold
Snatches of old talk
Entering doorways.
Exchanging rooms
A room once entered
Invades the new space
These doors where the doors were
Old chests in their place
And in this new room
Enmeshed in these traces
Strain toward the doorway
To the next room
Entering doorways
Exchanging rooms.
The experience of crossing over (or chiasmus) and the oxymo-
ronic clanging silence partake of an absent
If only for a moment, modern Jewish writers tarry at the
threshold, pay lip-service to their hidden
and trans­
form the subliminal into the sublime before moving on to the
next room. By guarding their own gates, these secular scribes
keep the faith. Rothenberg, Shapiro, Kunitz, and a host of oth­
ers rally around ongoing Jewish crossings (the X of expulsion,
exodus, and exile), so different from the fixed cross of Chris­
tianity. In his poem, “regarding a door,” David Antin instructs