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The Missing Jew: New and Selected Poems

by Rodger Kamenetz

The Dead Are with You . . .

At a loss for words
which is the place
where all words begin.

God is not a two-timer.
Once he makes up his mind
that is the end of it.
One big idea
from the beginning of the earth
to the end of time.

We are at a loss for words
which is to say
the dead are at our lips
and remain unspoken.

To address the dead
is to find them at home.
They are sitting
in their favorite chairs.
One of them
is smoking a pipe.
Another is a child.

The tendency to repeat
oneself is the dead part
of the conversation.
It is like a prayer
to deaden the soul.

Yet no longer believing
at odd moments
in the conversation
we pray to anyone
who will listen.


A former featured selection of the Jewish Book Club


A poetic examination, as humorous as poignant, of the blessings and curses of Jewish heritage, focusing on how the American Jew has lost his religious and cultural identity through assimilation.


These are very exciting and original poems . . . a secret and almost intimate meeting place of English and Hebrew.
— Yehuda Amichai, author of A Life of Poetry, 1948–1994 and Open Closed Open: Poems

Kamenetz's poems whirl and shake on the page. He is the poet of the living history of unspeakable names and his book . . . sings with dark wit the tales of tough family spirits.
— Louise Erdrich, author of Love Medicine

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