Friday, July 4, 2014

Two Poems by George Jochnowitz

Human Aspirations

It has been said that poetry is a language of the heart, of the emotions, suggesting and intimating through the use of language something hidden that ought to see the light of day and of reason. Poems can be both personal and yet have universal themes. One such case are the events of the middle east, which loom large and  penetrate the surface of the two short poems by Prof. George Jochnowitz.  To my friends in the United States, Happy Independence Day, or as it is most commonly called, Happy Fourth of July. It was on July 4, 1776, when  the Second Continental Congress voted to approve the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.


He dreamt he was a credit card,
A promised land of milk and honey.
Among those doing good he starred,
Bestowing love as well as money.

And yet his gentle soul was scarred
Despite the kind things he would do.
His reputation still was tarred,
And people called him dirty Jew.


Sunnis, O Sunnis, you’ve just got to kill.
If you have faith, you must find the will.
Shiites, O Shiites, you’ve just got to slay.
The mercy of Islam says: Jihad’s the way.

Shiites and Sunnis, you both hate the Jews.
Yet you must battle, despite your shared views.
Killing a Muslim is certainly sad,
But refraining from killing is sinfully bad.

George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at

Copyright ©2014. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. "Israel" appeared as "Where Credit is Due" in  Volume 13 (2007) of And Then. The poems are republished here with the author’s permission.

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