Divorce – Alan Walowitz

She woke with the Yiddish opgetn on her lips,
a word she hadn’t heard since she was small
when spoken late at night in the hushed kitchen
of a railroad flat on the Lower East Side
as she pretended to be asleep in the next room.
It was always better to listen,
better to know.

When I got home late that night our bed was gone,
taken apart slat by slat, rail by rail,
and shipped into the future which,
though often unremarkable, is always unknown.
Ordinarily, she didn’t trust in dreams,
but she wasn’t one to allow herself
to be taken by surprise.

Alan Walowitz has been published various places on the web and off. He is a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry, and teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY and St. John’s University in his native borough of Queens, NY. Alan’s chapbook, “Exactly Like Love,” was recently published by Osedax Press. 

2 thoughts on “Divorce – Alan Walowitz

  1. Gary Heath

    In my copy of Jackie Mason’s HOW TO TALK JEWISH (1990, St. Martin’s Press), there is no word or term between ongeshtopt and Oy vey! Thus, according to Mason, divorce (opgetn) did not exist in Yiddish in 1990. Oy vey! I very much enjoyed Alan Walowitz’s poem. If I could’ve found my copy of THE JOYS OF YIDDISH (I recently moved a lot of books out of my university office due to retirement and I am still in disarray), I might not have had to go online to define opgetn. I predict opgetn will not join tchotchke in mainstream use. One word for such pain may well suffice.

    1. Alan Walowitz

      Thanks, Gary. I’ve had to learn the Yiddish I know by the seat of my pants–what I remember from my parents, and like you I had a copy of the Leo Rosten bible that I haven’t come across in quite a while. Thankfully, the internet has helped to fill in some of the missing pieces for me. However, since Yiddish is a language that seems to manage to survive more in its remaining speakers–God bless them–than in written texts–though God bless the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA for keeping it alive in that form–I never know what I can count on. Opgetn is the best I could do. I could check with my former wife, but my guess is, though this is ancient history, she might not welcome the call.


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