Thursday, September 28, 2006

Susan Eisenberg

Blind Spot. Susan Eisenberg. (The Backwaters Press Greg Kosmicki 3502 N. 52nd St. Omaha, NE 68104

Many of us want to shed our past like it is a cheap, gone-to-seed suit. As a Jew, I saw my father, a child of Russian Jewish immigrants, shed his Jewish roots to fit in his Brooks Brothers suit, and an advertising job on Madison Ave. In poet Susan Eisenberg’s collection “Blind Spot,” the poet examines her grandmother’s attempts to erase her past as a refugee from the Pogroms of Russia. Eisenberg’s poetry is accessible and visceral, as she examines her grandma’s painful ghosts that she can’t seem to exorcize. In the poem “My Grandmother Hated the Neighbors,” Eisenberg capture’s her grandmother’s festering resentment toward her own people:

Was it just to humiliate her
that they prayed outside
wearing long coats and velvet hats,
their sideburns curled like girls,
davening their mumbo jumbo
like it was the Middle Ages
and we lived in a filthy shtetl?

Or, just to shame us all
in front of the goyim
that they grew their beards
untamed-like they wanted
someone to yank at them? Pull them
down to their knees, and her
--an American—with them. (15)

In the lead poem”Heirlooms” the grandmother literally unweaves the past and spins in the illusion of an America with streets paved with gold:

She unstitched all remnants
of the girl from the shtetl
and spun our gold into skeins of straw
washed, dyed, and sewn by hand into
her proudest dress woven
in perfect English: “I was born
in New York City.”



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