Revolutionaries on Holiday
Oskar had suggested that they locate a village near the border,
one nestled into the mountains, with stairs winding every which way
and streets with obscure names sprinkled with cafés from which
pumpernickel and Streuselkuchen could be procured and savored.
He had had several such villages recommended to him by a comrade
at a rally last month and had decided on just the one for their stay.
But he had insisted instead on this cabin by the lake,
where the air would be crisp
and the moon would pierce the water’s lacquered facade
and the creatures of the forest would be the only witnesses to their love,
which he liked to think of not as forbidden,
but as little understood.
And now unpacking their valises in the pink before dusk,
Oskar outside chopping wood, he was not sorry that he had done so,
was even pleased that he had insisted on this destination.
It was unusual for him to counter Oskar’s suggestions, which, of course,
weren’t really suggestions at all. True, there might be repercussions back
home in their garret lodgings in the city adjacent to several streetcar
lines, with bells pealing into night. A verbal lashing,
or perhaps a physical one. But here tonight, they could set
aside the broadsides and manifestoes and pamphlets and speeches yet to
be written, the workers yet to be organized, the hope yet to be
uncovered and foregrounded amidst the peril of acquiescence.
The lake, the birches would see to that.
And yet even here he could not help but think of those repercussions.
Oskar would tersely suggest that the cabin,
with its seclusion and views,
had been too extravagant, especially now with the Financial Crisis
and so many out of work and evicted from their homes
and funds needed for shelters and soup kitchens
and to slake the thirst of their new printing press.
Oskar would become yet more rigid with the household expenses.
And other comrades might cast sidelong glances after a meeting
as he (rather than Oskar) praised the clarity of the lake’s waters,
and recounted how they had both felt so restored in its embrace.
And he would guide the conversation to waters of greater stillness.
And here was Oskar now entering the cabin from the pines beyond,
his body perspiring, his biceps knotty and intricate around the kindling,
the hallelujah of him,
moving about the cabin in a halo of health and resolve,
starting a fire now building in momentum,
sampling the stew now beginning to simmer on the stove.
And here were Oskar’s arms around him, pulling closer,
and beyond were the eyes of a doe gleaming in crepuscule,
and he delighted in the day’s braiding of the ordinary and the extraordinary,
and he shivered with delight in the tracing of Oskar’s hands over his back
and in anticipation of the welts likely to flower.
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is the author of four books of poetry, including most recently Prayers of a Heretic/Tfiles fun an apikoyres. He was honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage as one of New York’s best emerging Jewish artists and has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize.