The Thorough Earth

Hardback and Paperback: 52 pp.
Published: 1989

Price: $18.95, $12.50




In this daring book of twenty-three poems, Brodsky dramatically juxtaposes seemingly disparate subjects, in two sections ("Peddler on the Road" and "The Ashkeeper's Everlasting Passion Week"). The contrast is stark and unnerving, but Brodsky manages to blend the workaday experiences and reflections of an American Jewish traveling salesman, Willy Sypher, with gruesome and poignant glimpses of the Holocaust, as seen through the eyes of shattered survivors. This volume leaves the reader feeling the weight that Jewishness imposes upon those who must endure anti-Semitism.




Louis Daniel Brodsky's Holocaust-related poems are evocative, even hallucinatory; they belong to a time that is still drowning in oceans of ashes.

— Elie Wiesel, winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize and author of Night


No achievement in his poetic career exceeds Louis Daniel Brodsky's creation of Willy Sypher, a Jewish traveling salesman. Juxtaposing a series of poems about Willy's career and a series of poems reflecting on the Nazi holocaust, Brodsky projects a vision of Jewish history . . . that includes in its range the comic compulsiveness of Willy's quest for sales and the unspeakable horror of the death camps. No poet at work today has a more . . . passionate regard for the infinite worth of the experience of being alive. 

— Lewis P. Simpson, author of The Fable of the Southern Writer





Émigré in the Promised Land

Warsaw looms as cold and ghetto-gaunt
As King Solomon's first temple
Gone to ash and dust,
Whenever I sniff memories
Sifting into history's nostrils.

Odors my soul inhales
Are not Proustian teacakes
But stale bread loaves
Smuggled through holes in SS nets,
Rotting bones, rat droppings, plagues.

Images of naked women and men,
Screwed to crematory gates,
Shower doors, and oven lids
As human hinges on death's portals,
Ulcerate my stomach linings,

And I puke blood instead of bile.
I wish I knew why my intellect
Hasn't been able to remove its tattoo,
Erase the J
From its identification papers,

Or, without losing bowel control,
Accept fate's scapegoating the Jew,
Hatcheting his testicles,
Injecting her breasts with estrogen
To fatten them for Nazi butcher shops.

Sometimes, quite late at night,
I hear them chanting, "Juden! Juden!"
And fear dreams will make me strip,
Then shoot and bootheel me
Into a pit of writhing swastikas,

From which waking will be no escape,
Just perpetuation of daily life
Here in Israel — Hitler's vision fulfilled.
Maybe Madagascar
Would have been Canaan after all.


To read my interview with Charles Adès Fishman, about my writing on the Holocaust, please click here.




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