Torah and Secular Learning

By Bogi Takács

    for Miou

We will have to rebuild you from scratch,

when this is over, he says,

then smooths down his brown beard

speckled with grey. His beeper sounds

and he scuttles away

with a homey spring in his steps.

His white coat always has a wrinkle

or two in strategic locations;

you can almost see the way

he throws it across a car seat

in his white van like yeshiva boys

driving a mitzvah mobile

would toss their spare shirts

on a back seat, leaving them to fester.

You construct a scene around an illusion;

the coats are hospital property,

never to be removed from the building.

He speaks of hashgacha pratis,

the unceasing divine providence

that micromanages the life of each soul.

His large kipah slips to the side

and he pulls at it with practiced fingers

that might cut the flesh in the same

swift, darting way—

no, he is a neurologist, not a neurosurgeon.

He looks away—outside the window

spring is gathering force.

You are well behind the front lines.

He says this is inevitable,

but we can go into it prepared.

Beads of sweat on his temples.

He's never driven an armored vehicle

and he has never lived through

the searing pain of the divine influx,

he does not know what it's like to do battle

and call the angels, like comrades, by name;

but he knows the words,

all the heimishe Ashkenazic terms

of a more placid childhood.

You find his bare existence reassuring.

This is your tradition,

not the Goetic names for all the demons

or the convoluted Enochian cyphers

occupying and freeing up the mind.

He is the first one you come across

who speaks with the same words

you heard in your midrasha as a girl.

Yet he's not a Chabadnik, he studied at YU,

swore by the newfangled philosophy of

Torah and secular learning.

You can see through him, literally,

and you expect him to flinch

in instinctive revulsion and dread

like the other doctors draw away from

the divine warriors of your kind.

His motions remain steady.

You can see through the world

and soon you will fall, burning,

like the serafim constantly destroyed

by the closeness of the sacred

and reconstructed in every second

simply so they can persist.

He will be there to rebuild you,

with his gentle smile informed by

merciful words of Torah uttered at

a hundred thousand Shabbes tables.


Bogi Takács is a psycholinguist, a popular-science journalist, a religious fundamentalist and a fan of Spivak pronouns. Eir speculative poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Stone Telling, Jabberwocky, Astropoetica and Comets & Criminals. E also helps run Expanded Horizons, a magazine focusing on underrepresented groups in SF.

Comments

No comments found.

Leave a Comment

The following HTML tags are allowed: <em><strong><cite><strike><b><i><a>