Skip to Content

Ode to Jacob Blinder

By Janlori Goldman

His face stared out into the living room
             of my grandparents’ walk-up on E. 13th.
After they died my father hung him
            on our staircase wall. Bearded and dour,
great grandfather is now mine, he watches me make coffee,
            scour pans, dance my sweetheart
across the floor.

                          Of Jacob Blinder, I know two things:
he never made it out of Russia,
             and of his three daughters,
only the oldest escaped. A constellation of sorrow
             followed her as she lay under hay
in a boxcar across Poland, trailed her
               on the boat to Buenos Aires.

Tell me, Miriam, how did you stow his portrait—
             rolled in your coat hem, a lining in
your satchel, the lost world bound
             to your skirt waist? 

                          I am named with his ‘J’—
though he was surely a Yakov—
             but when the ocean swallowed
a bitter mouthful, it spit back the old language
             at the retreating shore.
When only one thing remains, it isn’t hard
            to know what to carry.


Listen as Janlori Goldman reads "Ode to Jacob Blinder".

Added: Thursday, April 29, 2021  /  Used with permission. Originally published in Janlori Goldman's full-length poetry manuscript Bread from A Stranger's Oven (White Pine Press 2017).
Janlori Goldman
Photo by Maya Rose Goldman.

Janlori Goldman’s first book, Bread from a Stranger's Oven, was chosen by Laure-Anne Bosselaar for the 2016 White Pine Press Poetry Prize. Her chapbook, My Antarctica, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

Gerald Stern chose her poem “At the Cubbyhole Bar” for the 2012 Raynes Prize. Her poems appear in The Cortland Review, Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, Connotation Press, Calyx, Gertrude, Oberon Poetry Magazine, The Sow’s Ear, Contrary, Naugatuck River Review, The Stillwater Review, WORDPEACE, and other journals.

Janlori co-edited (with Cheryl Boyce-Taylor and Yesenia Montilla) The Wide Shore: A Journal of Global Women’s Poetry, and worked with Paris Press on the publication of Virginia Woolf's "On Being Ill."

She works at the Center for Justice, is a writing mentor at Queens Cancer Center, and teaches courses in public health and social justice

Other poems by this author