Someone recently reminded me of this poem, which I wrote a long time ago. It’s a response to a Yiddish lullaby, which I first heard on a record by Martha Schlamme.
The song tells of a pure white little goat (“klor veis tzigele”) which sleeps under your crib. When you grow up, he’ll help you in the market, selling raisins and almonds.
This version of the song is very operatic, but also very good:
KLOR VEIS TZIGELE
Time goes only forward; we step in only one direction.
Maturity’s a game of manners, not to spit at fools,
not to cry, not walk out of offices;
not say these things aloud,
but on this silent paper.
Would I a hundred years ago have been content,
in those grandfathers’ villages,
nailing together on market days my rickety square table,
selling by cupfuls my little heaps
of raisins and almonds?
There was never a tiny white goat beside my crib,
to grow with me, to help me sell, or keep me warm.
Now, in times of terrifying manhood,
I’d like to, sleeping, feel his sparrow’s heartbeat
beneath my blanket.