Five New Poems: Jake Marmer

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May 31, 2013

Origins of the Nigun

It is said this riff was once a golden tooth
in the mouth of the tzaddik’s illegitimate brother

It is said the space between these two notes
was laced through the angelic combat boot

It is said this chorus was a mythic road-sign,
people closed their eyes passing through it

It is said this bridge linked nothing to nothing and got rocked daily with heavy commuter traffic

It is said this echo was a non-believer
who called his circuitous origin a “soul” –

this chorus was a mythic road
sign – people,
closed their eyes passing through it

is said this harmony was a rain of sweat,
crumbling wall, people hugging empty air

It is said this voice was a bloody mouth
spelling out the Name

on the snow –

a road-sign, chorus
people closed their eyes passing

Reflexive Nigun

this nigun opens its raincoat
in front of your mirror, so you
never quite know whose
reflection you’re looking at

because of this unusual arrangement
the nigun is never sung
only her lips moved
as if voiceless
you could go either way
could walk anywhere wanting
and not

we know visions
of the audible –
but the in-

sun-thoughts across the visor,


“you have to draw the line somewhere!”

–in the water?


At Jamie Saft’s New Zion Trio Concert Cornelia Street Café, New York

in the flooded base-
ment, cupping water with
your hands, drinking,
singing praise

to the one
in whose image

you’ve collapsed

in whose imitation
the hat went floating

peering into some rhythm
less conspiracist than watch-maker
summoning a library
of everything you’ve ever touched

calling on he who you
count on stepping back
every second
stepping back



could not drown –
some nebulous promise,
too, a rhythm
unmanned but moving
as long as there’s
a word for it
– Jan 2013

Concept Score #17

what’s being tested isn’t you
but others against
your backdrop;

the opening
into the language of rocks
in your mouth

seventy two rabbis in the room of Greek
did anyone think of translation as reu-

(by force?)

was it about ducking all
through the same loophole –

or, really, building a bridge?
– hanging a trapeze –

it may have been around then that we unlearned
our declaratives

everything a question

harmony against what
isn’t you but the backdrop of
others, against

-After Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 9

Jake Marmer is a poet, performer, and author of the poetry collection “Jazz Talmud” (Sheep Meadow, 2012). He frequently contributes to the Forward and Tablet, and has written recently for Moment, Jacket2, The New Vilna Review, and Sh’ma. He is the co-host of North America’s first Jewish poetry retreat at KlezKanada this August 19 to August 25. A doctoral candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, Jake is writing a dissertation on jazz-inspired strand of improvisational writing.

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