Yehoshua November is the author of God’s Optimism, which was named a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize in Poetry. His work has appeared in The Sun Magazine, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, and on The Writer’s Almanac. He teaches writing at Rutgers University and Touro College.
Young Men Become Chassidic
Young men become Chassidic and forget their pasts
but the G-d in Chassidic philosophy they study does not
advise this. Only, they do not understand
because they see the beards and black coats
and try to jump out of their old bodies.
I could not do this. I married my girlfriend from college
and then became a Chassid.
There was no fading bridge, then, at dusk,
separating one half of life from the other. There was a man
holding an old leather suitcase with a letter
in one of his vest pockets—
a letter that connected the past life to this one.
It was a letter from a Rebbe predicting the future
from under a dark hat in a room
professors and Russian officials were trying to find
but could not
because G-d was hiding it.
A Few Feet Beneath the Surface
I am not a master of words.
I have divided my attention
between too many disciplines
to become expert at any one of them.
I would like to study one book
for many years,
like a man studying his wife’s face
from many angles
over the decades—
seeing something new, something the same, each time.
But tomorrow will call on me to dive
into many subjects,
descending just so—
a few feet beneath the surface
and back up again
toward the sunlight
of the superficial life.