Selected Prose


Remembrance of a Poem

In my dream last night, I conceived of what I thought was an extraordinary poem, like Paul McCartney composing “Yesterday” while he slept and waking up with an original melody in his head. 

It was a sublime and beautifully rendered love poem of sixteen lines, and the particular ingenuity of its structure was that I interspersed it with another love poem, also of sixteen lines, written by Carl Sandburg. There were to be four lines of my poem, followed by four lines of his, and so on, with the alternating stanzas in regular and italic text so it would be clear who wrote which stanza. Even though each of the poems stood on its own, it was also true that the entirety of the combined poem made perfect sense when read as one, a construction I thought was exceedingly clever.

However, it soon became apparent that I would never remember the poem upon awakening, and I grew despondent over that likelihood. But then I came up with a brilliant solution. I would type the poem in the computer and hit a special “print from dream” button so it would be sitting in my printer output tray when I awoke in the morning. Of course, I realized that in the bright light of day, the poem I wrote would likely be incomprehensible, but that was a chance I was willing to take. Much like love, the words of a dream might only make sense to those who are in it.

Footnote from Modern Rabbinical Thought, page 947

* The quoted sentence is taken from the teachings of Rabbi Hershel Rabinovitz, the enigmatic scholar who resided in Minsk in the late nineteenth century, thought to have been born in the early 1830’s and who passed away in 1898 or 1899. We refer to his teachings rather than writings because, although the Rabbi has come to be recognized as a preeminent student of the Talmud, he never committed his ruminations to paper. That task was relegated to his closest confidant, Mendel Pasternik. Although he had no formal education (he earned his living selling tallises), Mr. Pasternik toiled endlessly to record the Rabbi’s musings, and published his most memorable utterances in a posthumous volume entitled Mysteries of Life Revealed. In order to preserve the nuances of his verbal expression, the text of the book was expounded in Polish, Yiddish, and a few other languages spoken by the Rabbi. Alas, this original work is now lost but was translated into German by Dr. Emil Hauptmann in the year 1912, and it is from that tome (subsequently translated into English by Miriam Teitelbaum) that we quote. That said, it must be noted that it was indeed a challenge to locate a succinct passage relevant to the topic at hand. Since the Rabbi’s elucidations were deliberately elliptical, he tended to talk in circles. In fact, in perusing the body of his work, not a single quotation can be found that formulates anything resembling a coherent thought. The sentence we cite (including the Rabbi’s parenthetical comments) is truly the best we can offer. It is left to the reader to intuit its meaning and further reflect on the profundity of these words, however rambling and obtuse they may be.

The John Doe Effect

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