Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.

Download links will be available after you disable the ad blocker and reload the page.

The Ghetto and Other Poems

Download options:

  • 111.14 KB
  • 280.00 KB
  • 149.96 KB




  Cool, inaccessible air  Is floating in velvety blackness shot with steel-blue lights,  But no breath stirs the heat  Leaning its ponderous bulk upon the Ghetto  And most on Hester street…

  The heat…  Nosing in the body's overflow,  Like a beast pressing its great steaming belly close,  Covering all avenues of air…

  The heat in Hester street,  Heaped like a dray  With the garbage of the world.

  Bodies dangle from the fire escapes  Or sprawl over the stoops…  Upturned faces glimmer pallidly—  Herring-yellow faces, spotted as with a mold,  And moist faces of girls  Like dank white lilies,  And infants' faces with open parched mouths that suck at the air       as at empty teats.

  Young women pass in groups,  Converging to the forums and meeting halls,  Surging indomitable, slow  Through the gross underbrush of heat.  Their heads are uncovered to the stars,  And they call to the young men and to one another  With a free camaraderie.  Only their eyes are ancient and alone…

  The street crawls undulant,  Like a river addled  With its hot tide of flesh  That ever thickens.  Heavy surges of flesh  Break over the pavements,  Clavering like a surf—  Flesh of this abiding  Brood of those ancient mothers who saw the dawn break over Egypt…  And turned their cakes upon the dry hot stones  And went on  Till the gold of the Egyptians fell down off their arms…  Fasting and athirst…  And yet on…

  Did they vision—with those eyes darkly clear,  That looked the sun in the face and were not blinded—  Across the centuries  The march of their enduring flesh?  Did they hear—  Under the molten silence  Of the desert like a stopped wheel—  (And the scorpions tick-ticking on the sand…)  The infinite procession of those feet?


  I room at Sodos'—in the little green room that was Bennie's—  With Sadie  And her old father and her mother,  Who is not so old and wears her own hair.

  Old Sodos no longer makes saddles.  He has forgotten how.  He has forgotten most things—even Bennie who stays away       and sends wine on holidays—  And he does not like Sadie's mother  Who hides God's candles,  Nor Sadie  Whose young pagan breath puts out the light—  That should burn always,  Like Aaron's before the Lord.

  Time spins like a crazy dial in his brain,  And night by night  I see the love-gesture of his arm  In its green-greasy coat-sleeve  Circling the Book,  And the candles gleaming starkly  On the blotched-paper whiteness of his face,  Like a miswritten psalm…  Night by night  I hear his lifted praise,  Like a broken whinnying  Before the Lord's shut gate.

  Sadie dresses in black.  She has black-wet hair full of cold lights  And a fine-drawn face, too white.  All day the power machines  Drone in her ears…  All day the fine dust flies  Till throats are parched and itch  And the heat—like a kept corpse—  Fouls to the last corner....