Souvenirs, by Pesach Rotem
Before leaving the museum we were each allowed to buy a poster from the gift shop,
not realizing that our choices that day would foreshadow the directions our lives would take
for the next fifty years.
Michael was twelve. He selected Salvador Dali’s Crucifixion.
He will tell you that he was intrigued by the artist’s depiction of three-dimensional geometric forms
free-floating on a two-dimensional canvas.
I will tell you that he was excited by the prospect of the grownups telling him it was forbidden for
Jewish kids to hang crucifixion posters on their bedroom walls so he could proclaim his
inalienable right to self-expression and tell them they were fascists and so on
but he was disappointed when the grownups said OK and paid for the poster and it went up on the
wall without a fuss
and he has spent the next fifty years trying to shock the grownups
and occasionally he succeeds
and some sucker takes the bait and exclaims “Oh my goodness, Michael, I can’t believe you said that” and his face lights up
and he admits to being an irrepressible iconoclast.
I was nine. I selected El Greco’s View of Toledo.
I chose it just because I thought it was beautiful
and I have spent the next fifty years finding beauty in places of darkness and foreboding.
I have found beauty in the cubicles of my corporate day-job,
in the stories of Franz Kafka,
in the songs of Leonard Cohen,
in the rhythms of the Mourner’s Kaddish,
in women of self-destructive tendencies.
I, too, have had a happy life.
This was first published in arc.
Pesach Rotem was born and raised in New York and now lives in Yodfat, Israel. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his J.D. from St. John's University. His poem "Professor Hofstadter's Brain" was nominated for a Best of the Net Award.
8/29/2022 04:41:19 am
What a powerful piece of writing...wow
8/30/2022 02:53:31 am
Thank you, Linda. I'm glad you like it.
8/30/2022 09:35:45 pm
I love so many things about the journey you take us one, from my own trips to first museums as a child and how I pondered over my choices to how what we choose decides our path. Love how these choices went in different directions yet the way the chooser wanted to go. And as a retired office employee, I especially loved finding "beauty in the cubicles of my corporate day job." Thank you for the souvenirs.
8/31/2022 09:35:51 am
Thank you for the kind words, Alarie.
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