Poem: Jewlia Eisenberg

Jewlia Eisenberg

I noticed early how the women I knew 

were careful not to be too big, 

too loud. Because no one likes a bossy yenta, 

much less an assertive shrew. And I was too 

tall anyway, outspoken, and argumentative. So I tried

to control what I could: my rounded shoulders, slumped

posture, voice pitched deliberately, pleasantly low. 

Enter Jewlia Eisenberg, whose brazen, bosomy, bodacious yodels 

ran the gamut from screech owl to oracle, 

avenging angel to silken chanteuse, 

and lit up every nerve in my heart. 

Who sang in five obscure languages 

and was never afraid to dive  

into history, always coming up with her hands full  

of shipwrecked hullabaloo. Let’s musicalize the diaries

of Walter Benjamin! Let’s be intellectual

and sexy, let’s disturb the air,

you and me, and leave it shimmering in our wake,

like the twitch of a large woman’s hips, a woman who has stared down

sadness, ancestral and personal, and still

bursts with unbridled vitality. That unquenchable Jewish woman’s 

will to live. So yes, 

the black-hatted rabbis were right— 

the power of a female’s outrageous voice 

raised up in song can upend 

a moribund world. It can part the seas 

and reanimate the dead. I was never sure 

about divinity with a capital D–to Whom

should I pray? Some old man with a beard

and a penchant for smiting? But I do believe in Jewlia, 

whose uninhibited yips and moans

make me feel like I am right inside 

the place where it all comes from, 

that I am making a home for myself in this world,

and what would you call that but heaven.