Gerald Stern

Sam and Morris

I had two uncles who were proletarians
and one of them was a house painter and one of them
was a carpenter—they beat their wives
regularly and they had nineteen children
between them. Once a month or so my father
would go to one of their houses to intervene
and once I remember a police car with a dog.
When I was home on a short furlough I went
with my mother and father to a Jewish restaurant
and there, sitting in the back, were my two uncles,
in their seventies by then, and eating together,
chicken, chopped liver, God knows what, but pickles
and cole slaw, there always were pickles and cole slaw
and they were almost conspiring, it seemed to me
then, so young I was, and I was reading my
Ezra Pound already and I was ashamed of
what he said about Jews. Of usury those
two unshaven yidden, one of them red-eyed
already from whiskey, they knew nothing, they never
heard of Rothschild. Their hands were huge and stiff,
they hardly could eat their kreplach, Pound, you bastard!

Gerald Stern
“Sam and Morris” is from American Sonnets (W. W. Norton, 2002).