Coffee with Uncle Ezra
That day in the used bookstore
I bought a faded copy of Uncle Ezra Sees the Light
not because I wanted to own it
but because I didn’t want anyone else to.
Billed as A Story of Compelling Interest,
An Excellent Guide for Christian Workers
especially those dealing with Orthodox Jews
as well as Non-Jews, it bears a blue Star of David
above the author’s name on eighty-pound cover stock.
Inside, black and bold, the text: A Drama in Two Acts
and Eight Scents – a typo that makes me draw the staple-bound tract
to my face, inhale its ashen history like smoke from a crematorium
My Semitic nose pressed close to the fold, eye-to-eye
with a Cast of Characters: Uncle Ezra and the elderly Mrs. Rifkin,
the missionary Dr. Weisman, and Sollie, a silent schoolboy
who appears only once on stage to dip his spoon
in a dish of jam then immediately a tub of butter,
prompting Mrs. Rifkin to chastise him for mixing.
“Think shame to you. You should always lick your knife
before you in de butter put it,” immigrant advice intended
as moral commentary I can so confidently dismiss,
slathering butter and marmalade on marbled rye
while sitting across a sunny table from the pastor’s son
who rejects his evangelical roots in favor of breakfast with me.
I stir Uncle Ezra into my coffee, his white beard, his hooked nose,
words he is meant to utter, words he is meant to hear so he can see
the angel dancing on the ceiling, a reflection from my silver spoon.
bitter taste in my mouth bears a strong resemblance to charcoal.