When his roommate finally expired at eighty,
Zebulon said he was relieved to be rid of Isaak.
The pair had held out in a decaying synagogue
under Mujahedeen, Taliban, Americans, more Taliban.
Each despised and regularly denounced the other.
Isaak called Zebulon a spy and a thief.
Zebulon said Isaak rented rooms to prostitutes.
Isaak claimed his business was selling amulets
to women who wanted to bear sons, or who
opposed their husbands taking other wives.
Even while in prison, their guards couldn’t stand
the bickering. Always released them as a unit.
Did they share one mother who, near death,
made each son promise to keep a close eye
on his brother? Did they take this to heart,
their mutual hatred, a filial, purifying flame?
Or were they direct descendants of men
who spoke ill of one another’s wives in 1542?
Now Zebulon, his own wife and children long-gone,
has been flown to another country. He’d wanted
to stay, he said, had just repainted the shul.
In Kabul, the door’s blue paint is still fresh.
To stay. To go. Enough, already—If only
he’d known what Isaak might have chosen,
Zebulon would have done the opposite.
Copyright 2022 Julie Bruck
Julie Bruck’s books include How to Avoid Huge Ships(Brick Books, 2018).She lives in San Francisco’s foggy Inner Sunset district with her husband, writer Lewis Buzbee, and once in a while, their daughter Madeleine.
Thanks, Lewis. I’ll always stop whatever I’m doing to read her. She’s so good.
Still smiling. And dispairing about the human race. Yes, this is is an example of how we dysfunction.
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Yes, the poem is a object lesson in dysfunctional relationships.
Gorgeous, Julie – I love how you’ve captured the spirit of Hasidic folk tale in this poem. A perfect poem for these Jewish Days of Awe!
Yes, the spirit of a tale, but with the tight musical language of a poem.