Still Wandering in the Wilderness: Poems of the Jewish Diaspora
by Louis Daniel Brodsky
Although I don't claim to be a practicing Jew (I never follow Halakhah, Never keep kosher, Never fast during the Days of Awe, When atonement is the rule of Jewish law), I know the Old Testament, Believe in the Ten Commandments.
Some days, I'm certain my life lived prior to me, By almost four millenniums, That I must be of origin divine, Born if not of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, Then of their scattered scions. (My children, of lapsed parents, Have no clue as to their heritage.)
Why all this assails me, tonight, I'm at a loss to explain. Yet I'm reminded of the trials of pariahhood, The starvation I've experienced Whenever fleeing for destinations unknown, Leaving behind unleavened bread, Having failed to assimilate in yet another location.
Oh, the humiliation of the Venetian ghetto, The march from Auschwitz to Gross-Rosen, The terror of being shot On a kibbutz, in the Golan Heights, Or blown up by a suicide bomber, in Jerusalem. This evening, I'm rootless, anonymous, lonely, A Jew with no place to call home.
Trying to find my way out of history's abyss, Into my future existence, I contemplate the essence of my ancestry, Think back over the wandering, Which has taken nearly four thousand years To bring me from Ur, via Canaan, To this St. Louis sports bar . . . and I weep.
Use the player below to listen to Louis Daniel Brodsky read this poem.
In this book, Louis Daniel Brodsky proves to be not only a skilled poet but also a very sensitive contemporary Jew. Vividly portraying the inner turmoil and chutzpadik bravery of Abraham, he then traces the “Diaspora mentality” of Jews throughout our history. Periods of progress and persecution inform the contemporary Jewish psyche. In the tradition of Biblical prophets, he portrays the alienated and disaffected Jew with disgust yet also with hope that the ties can be rebound. These writings will cause anyone interested in four thousand years of Jewish history to look deeper into its meaning in today’s assimilated Jewish world. — Jeffrey Stiffman, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shaare Emeth
Louis Daniel Brodsky's latest collection, Still Wandering in the Wilderness: Poems of the Jewish Diaspora, constitutes a significant contribution to contemporary Jewish American literature. Written over a period of twenty-five years, these poems reflect not only the insights and sensitivity of an important modern poet but also open a window to a deeper and more perceptive understanding of what it means to be a Jew living in the Diaspora at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
This collection is divided into six sections (perhaps alluding to the six points of the Star of David), with each section focusing on a different aspect of Jewish experience and Jewish existence. These poems are indeed a wandering in both time and space; beginning with Abraham's sojournings in the ancient Near East as the seminal origin of the Jewish quest for meaning, the poems continue in their journey until they take us for a drive in the small towns of the American Midwest. While on the one hand these poems mirror the grandeur of Jewish history and Biblical texts, they do not shy away from giving us vivid portraits of both anti-Semites and Jewish "shmegegges" as well. These poems often throw new light — unexpected and penetrating — on different aspects of Jewish life, be it sitting shivah or the reading of the ancient sacred texts.
Still Wandering in the Wilderness: Poems of the Jewish Diaspora is a book that must be read by anyone interested in uncovering the inner significance of Jewish identity in contemporary America. Here are poems that provoke not only the mind but also the heart. I recommend this book highly. — Yakov Azriel, winner of the 2004 Miriam Lindberg Poetry for Peace Prize
With Still Wandering in the Wilderness, Louis Daniel Brodsky confirms his place in the first rank of American poets who are Jewish, and among the great American Jewish poets. This volume is a collection to be savored, read and re-read in order to fully glimpse the many verbal gems that sparkle among its couplets. — Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, St. Louis Jewish Light