Portrait of a Predecessor

portrait of a predescessor

Graphic by Emmarogenous.

Written by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub. Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is the author of four books of poetry, “Prayers of a Heretic/Tfiles fun an apikoyres” (2013), “Uncle Feygele” (2011), “What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn” (2008), and “The Insatiable Psalm” (2005). His poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Dark Lady Poetry, Eclectica Magazine, Flutter Poetry Journal, Hill Rag, The Lake, Loch Raven Review, Prairie Schooner, Pyrokinection, and The South Carolina Review. Some of his Yiddish poems were recently set to music by Michał Górczyński and have been performed at various venues in Warsaw, Poland. A CD was recently released on the Multikulti label. Taub was honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage as one of New York’s best emerging Jewish artists and has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for a Best of the Net award. Please visit his web site at www.yataub.net. For more Jewrotica writing by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, see Early Talkie and From Night to Night.

Rated R


His photograph stands to the side of your (our?) bed.
Occasionally, when my eyes wander during love,
when I am lost in my greed for you,
when I have to turn from the ever expanding boundaries of said greed,
when I am inside you, savoring the gift of you, confident of the now,
but knowing this can be withheld or removed altogether,
I glimpse him.
There he is, handsome in a patrician way.
Is that unoriginal? Perhaps, but “objectively” stated, there it is.
Standing against a tree of a species indeterminate (to me),
he looks outward, away from you.

And yes, I still I see the pull of him, not just in his looking-away-ness.
I imagine—for you won’t provide the circumstances—
you snapping this photograph strategically, for the camera is steady
and the image is crisp in black and white.
And in these pre-digital days,
I see you in the red of the dark room,
your excitement, the image unfolding from the chemicals,
the precision of the framing, the symmetry of the composition,
the presentation of a man whose lines and angles,
whose ambivalence about privilege and his own survival seems
perfectly to suited to that backdrop of tree in that late afternoon light.

And I see you choosing the frame for this image,
a simple black one with the narrowest of ivory inlay,
and I see you taking the framed photograph with you on each of your many moves,
wrapping it in tissue paper, and then in bubble wrap,
laying it atop the mounds of peanuts, and then once unpacked,
selecting the suitable place of honor in the new abode:
not the den, not the living room, but the bedroom.
We bring our histories with us; our skeletons usher in our days.
And so I give welcome to this man, this third wheel, or should I say
fifth column. I bid him stay, here with us in the open, astride our love,
and I reach for your waist, as you moan in memory lost to me.


His portrait stands above my bed, my north star.
His wisdom, his play, even under duress, still surge
though the march of the just-this-side-of-chaos that is my life.
And yet when I am with you, when I feel your weight above and within,
it is you who is foregrounded—the direction of your touch,
the hunger of your hands and lips and tongue and cock, all of you,
the ways our bodies seem to know each other and to find yet surprise.
And yes, they often spoke of his background—the stone mansions set back in
woodland, the yachts glittering on turquoise, the schooling in those many
countries, etc. And yes, that may have been a draw in the beginning, for
how could it not, given my yeshivah origins, but it did not remain so for long.

For on that day in woodland more modest, he revealed otherwise,
and that is what called me to stay. There, over my offerings of a white fish
salad and bagels picnic, he found the words to convey horrors of which
I cannot even in this poem write. He so feared the weight of these revelations,
how they would flatten the most buoyant of afternoons like this one,
or worse surely, our nights of entwinement. And so to assure him that they
would not, we documented the day. In his looking slightly away from the camera
after we, quickly, even haphazardly, found a pine against which to pose him,
there was such a tenderness, such a hope for our togetherness
that I felt reassured, did not need to dash to the dark room.
The photograph would emerge when ready; there was no call to rush.

I recall happening upon the frame in an antiques mall off the interstate,
when I was looking for a gift for him,
there it was amidst the Fenton glass and the Fire King tableware,
as if someone had decided against its purchase at the last moment.
And I knew immediately that this would be the one to shield that day.
And when I moved those many times, trying to flee the loss of his
optimism, the loss of rootedness, finally the loss of his self,
I would never pack him away in bubble wrap, sealed and inaccessible,
but would keep him with me, in my “carry-on” or “carry-with”
not as shrine or talisman or guest but as part. And so here he remains
beside us, beside this bed, which I hope will long remain ours.

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