Jewlia Eisenberg performing in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photograph by Asaf Antman.

Poem: Jewlia Eisenberg

I noticed early how the women I knew 
were careful not to be too big, 
too loud. Because no one likes a bossy yenta, 
much less an assertive shrew. And I was too 
tall anyway, outspoken, and argumentative. So I tried
to control what I could: my rounded shoulders, slumped
posture, voice pitched deliberately, pleasantly low. 
Enter Jewlia Eisenberg, whose brazen, bosomy, bodacious yodels 
ran the gamut from screech owl to oracle, 
avenging angel to silken chanteuse, 
and lit up every nerve in my heart. 
Who sang in five obscure languages 
and was never afraid to dive  
into history, always coming up with her hands full  
of shipwrecked hullabaloo. Let’s musicalize the diaries
of Walter Benjamin! Let’s be intellectual
and sexy, let’s disturb the air,
you and me, and leave it shimmering in our wake,
like the twitch of a large woman’s hips, a woman who has stared down
sadness, ancestral and personal, and still
bursts with unbridled vitality. That unquenchable Jewish woman’s 
will to live. So yes, 
the black-hatted rabbis were right— 
the power of a female’s outrageous voice 
raised up in song can upend 
a moribund world. It can part the seas 
and reanimate the dead. I was never sure 
about divinity with a capital D–to Whom
should I pray? Some old man with a beard
and a penchant for smiting? But I do believe in Jewlia, 
whose uninhibited yips and moans
make me feel like I am right inside 
the place where it all comes from, 
that I am making a home for myself in this world,
and what would you call that but heaven. 

Poetry Editor Alicia Ostriker comments:
This poem is so free-spirited and jubilant that it lifted my spirits, and I hope it will lift the spirits of Lilith readers everywhere. I had never heard of Jewlia Eisenberg. Now I too, thanks to her presence on YouTube, am a fan. Such chutzpah—and such a voice.