March 07

Variations on a Theme by Wiesel

Richard Chess

The day I received American citizenship . . . the Jew in me was overcome by a feeling of pride mixed with gratitude.

Elie Wiesel


Wherever he roams, the clever Jew

in me carries a false identity.


Even here, even now, if suddenly

it must flee, the Jew in me,

will it stop at the door for a last look

at the sack of blood and bones

that hosted it for an American century?


Beyond the reach of luxury,

the depressed Jew in me.

But the good bread

of her body, shiksa at the party—

that’s what the rapacious Jew

in me would like to try.


Caution: the Jew

in me, national enemy,

is voting.


It’s all in the chemistry.

Swallow the Zohar pill

and you may find your inner Jew

wet with American gratitude.


Image: Study 2, Vermont 2006 by Bara Sapir


Richard Chess is the author of three books of poetry, including the forthcoming Third Temple as well as Chair in the Desert and Tekiah, all with University of Tampa Press. He directs the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of North Carolina Asheville.