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Someday Songs: Poems Toward a Personal History

Someday Songs: Poems Toward a Personal History
Rochelle Ratner, art by Bernard Solomon, BkMk Press. University of Missouri, 1992, $9.50

The poems in Rochelle Ratner’s latest collection center mainly on Jewish life cycle events, rituals, and family, as well as on friendship, love, and spiritual quest.

Ratner artfully probes shifts in Jewish family traditions, as in “Rosh Hashanah Meal:” There’s challah of course/hut Ann slices it/in the kitchen/and nobody blesses it pea soup/not the usual chicken/with matzoh balls/Is this the way you live /now. Grandpa.

In the section called “The Shohet [ritual slaughterer]” the rabbi arrives to examine the knives in accordance with the laws of kashrut. Satisfied that there are no nicks or rust, he accepts from the shohet a few beef tongues as presents. Ratner wryly observes, “He wears God on his face but it itches him.”

Painful and witty, these are genuine, unaffected, nourishing poems.