A New York Jewish Childhood – Anne Myles

It would take a book to hold what I didn’t know
about being a Jew. Perhaps that fancy Hebrew
silver-backed Bible, too heavy for one hand,
I’d ease down from the shelf sometimes to scan,
dizzied by narrow columns of dim print
pulling me backwards. Was that what it meant?
I’d passed by synagogues, a mystery;
I grasped we shouldn’t have — yet had — a tree.

What I knew was only in the taste and touch:
gefilte fish, chopped liver, sticky teiglach;
the way loud joking was my family’s prayer;
the way I talked, my hands shaping the air;
or how I sought the hiding place within a room
for when the Nazis came, or the pogrom.


Anne Myles lives in Waterloo, Iowa. She recently retired early from her position as an English
professor at the University of Northern Iowa and is working on an MFA in poetry at the Vermont
College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Lavender Review, Whale Road
Review, Green Briar Review, Minerva Rising, North American Review, and other journals.

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