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Michael Salcman

Ultimate Disappointment

After Joseph Roth’s Preface to The Wandering Jews (1937)


In our short lives, shorter than the life of the elephant,
The crocodile, and the crow, even the parrot,
There’s too little time to recognize the face in the mirror,
The voice on the phone, the voice in the poem.


I’m estranged from myself and all the earth.
At least I know it, I am a Jew, but you, who are you
And which one of me is speaking to you?
Time has eliminated place, erased any possible home.


That will come as packed dirt sooner than you expect.
In the time of the Einsatzgruppen no one went alone.
Nothing gets done in a grave, no books or video or gin;
No room to stretch our arms. We finish as a concept,


An idea, if lucky, a memory whispered during Yahrzeit.
Hoping for heaven or hell when all God says is “this is it.”

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