Ellis Rivkin z”l [his memory is a blessing]

Ellis Rivkin z”l


When he was a boy,
He snuck off on Shabbes Afternoons –
“Ball Hawk” his teammates called him
so began his independence
and break from


Intellectual Formation

He plotted the hidden ascent of the
British from his office
In the Klau Library
Wrestling his newsletters into light
Pouring over the secret

The English are everywhere,

Predicting the fall of the Iron Curtain
Long before it collapsed –
“a society that cannot
a decent razor
is no threat,”
he said in falsetto,
“it will collapse like a house of cards.”

The Classroom

His voice ascending
His eyes following ideas heaven-ward
His voice
Into extra-sensory
Registers –
“tapping the mind of

Then there was the last session
Of the semester
When he kissed each of us as we left
As if we were second graders.

Then there were the nights he invited us
For hot chocolate

And the days he brought fine
European chocolates to the classroom,

And then there were the classes
Rarely history
He was planted in the future
And parsing the secret present –

To which he drove to and from
In his galleon Cadillac.

And then there was the time
He pushed the


Ellis Rivkin,
sweetest teacher –

Good night
Dr. Ball Hawk.

james stone goodman
Cincinnati ‘81


Your Double Coursed Sister

I am your double coursed

My modal figure –
My yearning for voice.

I am a single line
I am the melodic serpent
Advancing by half-flats.

I am the hands of Ziryab
The blackbird
The one born in Baghdad.

I am oud player to the Umayyad court
8th century,
The dark one.

I am your hands
I am the reeshi in your hands
The eagle feather
As you pluck the strings.

I am the fifth course of strings
The ones introduced by Ziryab –

The soul –
Added to the four courses
The four humors of Aristotle.
I am the soul –
The fifth course.

I am the hands of the old man
Sitting by the Seventh Well

I am the sixth course
A single string
I am resolute
The absolute
The sixth course.

I am your hands
Rescuing you.