Dream Song 136: While his wife earned the living, Rabbi Henry

While his wife earned the living, Rabbi Henry
studied the Torah, writing commentaries
more likely to be burnt than printed.
It was rumoured that they needed revision.
Smiling, kissing, he bent his head not with ‘Please’
but with austere requests barely hinted,

like a dog with a bone he worried the Sacred Book
and often taught its fringes.
Imperishable enthusiasms.
I have only one request to make of the Lord,
that I may no longer have to earn my living as a rabbi
‘Thou shalt make unto thee any graven image’

The sage said ‘I merit long life if only because
I have never left bread-crumbs lying on the ground.
We were tested yesterday & are sound,
Henry’s lady & Henry.
It all centered in the end on the suicide
in which I am an expert, deep & wide.’

Analysis, meaning and summary of John Berryman's poem Dream Song 136: While his wife earned the living, Rabbi Henry

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