Poem by Doren Robbins)

I’ve been reading that prayer
of Levi Yitzhak. Really
his wife’s prayer, but he
wrote it down. And how
did it come about
that she told it
to him? She also begged
the Lord of the World
to help her, that when
her husband Levi Yitzhak
would say the blessing over
the Sabbath loaves,
that he would have
in his mind what she
had in her mind
the exact hour she
kneaded and baked them.
Levi Yitzhak did not have
cures for the possessed
placed in his credit,
as Rabbi Israel was
famous for. Neither was
he known for anything
in the realm of the esoteric
like Rabbi Jacob Yitzhak
who was known to be
the Seer of Lublin
because he could read
the genealogy of souls
and the migrations of
the souls of his visitors
from their foreheads.
Schlenke recounts nothing
of the extraordinary
about Levi Yitzhak, the Rav
of Berdichev. But he enjoyed
talking with crude and
ignorant people, and his
whole body shook with
tremors when he prayed.
Also, he made demands
on God, and if he had to
he would threaten him…
I can just see him
his beard stiff at the edges
with dried goat’s milk,
teaching Hebrew
from a cushion
on a dirt floor,
advising disciples,
consoling a drunken water-carrier.
But nothing Schlenke recounts
explains the meaning of
the prayer of Pearl, Yitzhak’s wife
why she told him, or what Levi Yitzhak
had in his mind that Pearl wanted
to replace while he made
the Sabbath blessings, or why
Levi Yitzhak set out once in winter
dressed in a robe of sparks, and rowed
on the waves and the dough through the dark
streets of Berdichev, the whole time
beside his wife, muttering
the prayer over wine,
clawing at a crust,
and then bent
out of breath
over his oars, overcome
by her orchid of heat.