Yael Massen


Klezmers on Tour

              after Josef Gusikov

The cow breaks the barbed
wire fence, feasts on grasses
sweet & tall in the minefield.

No Man’s Land made metal
and rusting in overgrowth.
Josef watches each hoof plod

the cow’s great heft like a wire
walker. Brown Spots! Mameleh!
He calls, sets down his suit-

case: inside the invent-strument
snores through its reeds. Tonight
it will be born playing a scissor

dance if the men survive this pasture.
The cellist says stew, the fiddler
take cover. They wait for the dagger

click, dirt dynamite. Instead, the cow-
bell laughs, a second mouth lolled open.
Still alive, still feeding. Their fears grow

weary with its graze. To pass time,
a fiddle appears from a pack carried
across The Pale; the steel strings play

a pickled pitch, rest on a shoulder.
The banging brass scamper begins: drawn
like the bow, the cow is moved by

the fiddler’s tune. Josef shuts his eyes
and the suitcase awakens, quivers
its song. Hooves lift from the ground.




Yael Massen is an MFA Candidate in Poetry at Indiana University and former Nonfiction Editor and Associate Poetry Editor of Indiana Review. Her work is forthcoming in Lilith, DIAGRAM, and The Journal, and can be found within the pages and URLS of Mid-American Review, Southern Indiana Review, and Day One. She is a recipient of the 2016 Vera Meyer Strube Academy of American Poets Award, the 2016 Kraft-Kinsey Award from the Kinsey Institute, and was a 2015 TENT Fellow in Creative Writing at the Yiddish Book Center. She volunteers as an On-Scene Advocate and a Legal Advocate at Middle Way House, a domestic violence shelter in Bloomington, Indiana, where she lives, works, and walks.