Our friend Jeffrey has traveled to many cities: Cucamonga. Bentonville. Portsmouth. Providence. In each city he has gotten on his knees. He has prayed to the local god or goddess. In Newark he spoke to Sarah Vaughn in a cocktail lounge and to Allen Ginsberg floating high above the Jewish cemetery next to the traffic jam. Getting the okay from Allen and Sarah, he renamed the airport so we can fly into Allen Ginsberg. Then he flew into Louis Armstrong and learned how to second line. In Cucamonga he surfed on a brazier. In Bentonville he lived inside a large appliance box in a parking lot full of humming trucks. In Baltimore he drank brandy with Edgar Poe. Through the power of his words, he changed his name in each city to a divine name. He is known as the Great Porker in Birmingham where people eat smoked meat. He is known as the Worshipful Seer in many counties in New Jersey. He has been known in Memphis as Elvis The Shabbas Goy. He inscribed his poems on the walls of City Halls. He bathed in the pregnant waters of the Waxahatchee and sank in the brown detergent foam of the Gihon. He invented each poem from a new pseudonym: in this way he became famous incognito. Line by line 14 a block, his Imaginarium rose naked and transparent, a permanent invisible structure where souls free of bodies can swim naked, and bodies free of forbidding minds can sink into being. All this for learning to read. Now Jeffrey is on high, now he is on low. Now you can see he is always right. Emily Brontë weeps in her closet she misses him so. When will he return to the England of the mid-19th century? She wants to call him Ellis Bell, she wants to love him on the Wuthering Heights. Little is known of the alleys he sleeps in, or the harsh light of the police lamp where he groans. Little does she know he carries a wallet-sized photo of her always, and an image of her mind hangs on the walls of his heart. She misses him so. How she misses him in the past where she lives forever.
Rodger Kamenetz is a poet and author. His six books of prose include The Jew in the Lotus and the sequel Stalking Elijah: Adventures with Today's Jewish Mystical Masters, which won the National Jewish Book Award. His nine books of poetry include Yonder from Lavender Ink, Dream Logic from PURH in France, and The Missing Jew: Poems 1976-2022. He was a featured teacher this summer at the first ever Jewish poets conference in Asheville. He also taught for many years at Louisiana State University where he helped found and served as director of the MFA program in creative writing and the Jewish Studies minor. He lives and works in New Orleans. Picture by Michael Hafftka.