Landlord to such a Multitude

Charlotte Newberger Poetry Contest - Second Place

(Inside me, a house.)

In my house,
King David plucks his lonesome harp
& Queen Esther prances in royal robes.
The newly freed burst into song.
A young man in long black coat shuckles
while another young man cradles a spent Uzi,
and Emma Goldman gathers up crumbs
of manna in my house. Sallow-eyed survivors
sit silently with their accusations while Jews turned-
other sit silently with their demands.
In my house, women pass Friday’s hands
over flame, cover their ankles with modesty.
So too, in my house, women leyn Torah
no matter the day of the month. Here live
socialists and secularists, ba ‘alei teshuvah
and undecided. Russians crowd into rooms
jumbled with Ethiopians, Moroccans, Americans.
Chickpeas and olives are hoarded,
some pieces of matzah, a bowl of borscht.
The dying are everywhere: from pogrom
and heavenly plague, starvation, loneliness,
and home-made bomb. In my house, 

elders exhort the young to never forget.
The radio blasts Hatikvah and Barbra
(even her Christmas album). Einstein
polishes his calculation, while Baruch Goldstein
his retribution. Screaming children spin
dreidels and old women play Mah Jongg.
Peaceniks argue it out with settlers.
The furniture gets rearranged daily in my house.
Walls change hue on whim. Strangers dance
together at midnight with outstretched arms
and tussle at dawn with mighty fists.
(Inside me, a house.
Inside the house, bickering boarders.
Inside the house, rent always coming due).

Sue Swartz teaches diversity and social change at Indiana University, leads Jewish prayer & ritual, runs a well-oiled household, and writes poetry.