Poems of the Week 5/22/18
The bone music maker
The dumpsters overflow with X-rays. And banned music is nowhere to be found.
The bone music maker is a bootlegger of jazz and rock and roll. His name is Sasha, and he lives on Resurrection Street. Each week, he looks for X-rays in the hospital dumpsters and takes them home to turn them into records.
Sasha presses the music into the X-rays with a machine, then cuts the disks with scissors. He burns a hole in the center with his cigarette, then holds up the result to the light: Elvis’s Heartbreak Hotel on the ribs. Johnny Cash’s I Walk the Line on metatarsals and phalange. Miles Davis on pneumonia. Chuck Berry on the broken hip. Dizzy Gillespie on Uncle Misha’s brain tumor. Ready for the turntable for just one ruble.
They sound like voices through torrential rain, ghosts singing through static. Like music in fog, light years away. Piano and trumpets played by the bees. Rontgenizdat is criminal, and everyone knows it. But students donate blood to get the money to buy bone music.
Someone must have ratted on Sasha. One day, the Komsomol music patrol raided the apartment and confiscated everything: the piles of X-rays, the records still unsold, even the manicure scissors and the cigarettes he smoked, and used to burn the record holes. Some say Sasha hid in the empty coffin waiting for Uncle Misha in the dining room. Others say he went to prison, and another bone music maker took his place.
In any case, on Resurrection Street, on skulls, vertebrae, and femurs, the banned bone music lives on. And the bones shake, rattle, and roll.
Milton P. Ehrlich
At noon, on the fasting day
of Yom Kippur in ’38, father asked me
to run home from Shul and walk our dog.
I was so hungry I forgot about fasting
when I found a stick of Wrigley’s Juicy-Fruit
in my back pocket. Uncle Willy gave it to me
when he returned from a flight to Pittsburgh.
Airlines provided gum to stop ears from popping.
I walked by a barking Doberman wearing a swastika collar.
I had seen dogs like that in newsreels about the march towards war—
loading Jews on trains heading for Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
The dog lunged for me and sank his teeth into the calf of my leg.
How did the dog know I was a Jew? I wasn’t even wearing a yarmulka.
Police escorted me to Saint John’s Hospital
and ordered the dog, who had not been vaccinated,
tested for rabies. The results were positive.
I underwent painful medical treatments.
What kind of God would punish me
for chewing one lousy stick of gum?
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