ROOTS

It isn’t easy negotiating the gentiles’ world,
although you think it’s good to be accepted
or tolerated. Am I too loud, too assertive?
Do I seem arrogant?
Some intoned the creeds
and took the sacraments, like Mendelssohn, Mahler,
Heine, and my own brother. Others stumbled ahead,
like me, wondering What do they say
when I’m not there?

Better to come back to the ghetto of the arts,
where you can live and paint or write
as you want, as Philip Roth showed us
(although your landsmen may complain)
and where I’ve portrayed Italians, Jews, Greeks,
and even WASPS, while being myself.

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