E. Ben-Joseph

A Good Turn


It’s Sabbath. I try to keep the noise down
so as not to disturb observant folks
round my neighborhood. Instead of a hammer
I use a crowbar to loosen planks I’ve found
attached to a plywood sheet. I need them
to make a bed frame. Still, I make some sounds
when suddenly a black-hat fellow comes
and stares at me with an intent look.
I think he’s scolding me for work this day
when he asks why I don’t use my hammer
to unnail the planks with a few blows.
At once he lifts the tool, hits the board,
and bangs cacophony that all can hear,
leaving me puzzled as he breaks the peace
in Sabbath attire. He offers yet to help
me carry home the planks, asks if I might
make chairs as well as build a bed frame,
says his wife and he are in need of them.
I tell him carpentry is just a hobby
for my retirement. He says he too is retired
and has a pastime: errands for his rabbi.
I see some seatless chairs beside a dumpster,
say I’ll mend them for him for his help
and bid goodbye beside my storage room.
Since then I’ve fixed the chairs, given them 
and come to understand an awkward balance.



Previously published in Voices Israel.





Now retired, E. Ben-Joseph taught English and historical conservation at Western Galilee College. He read classics at Brooklyn College and earned a doctorate in humanities at Haifa University. He has completed a verse translation of the Odyssey. His publications include poetry, Aesthetic Persuasion (1996) and articles on literature.