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Poem: "The Golem of Chelm" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Golem of Chelm"

This poem came out of the October 1, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by lb_lee and sponsored by janetmiles.  It's a sequel to "Clay Feet."




The Golem of Chelm



Yossele the golem
felt a bit dubious
about going to Chelm,
the village of idiots.

Menachem the blacksmith
pointed out that the residents
must need ironwork
as much as anyone else,
and so they took their wagon
down the road and through the gate.

Chelm was the strangest village
that Yossele had ever seen.
There were houses
with the doors hung backwards.
There were men dressed as women
and women dressed as men.
There was a fountain
of blue sand instead of water.

And the village golem
was lying in the middle of the road
instead of standing guard.

Annoyed by such laziness,
Yossele went over
and kicked the golem
with his iron foot.

"Oy!" shouted the baker.
"Kick him again, why don't you?
I don't think Amnon felt it the first time!"

But the other golem
grabbed Yossele's crutches
and yanked him off balance,
toppling him to the ground.

"Look at you tussling around
like a pair of putzes,"
Menachem scolded.
"Get up and go to work."

Yossele tried to obey,
but Amnon only fought harder.

"How are we supposed to
get any blacksmithing done like this?"
Menachem said, throwing up his hands.
"Fine, lie there in the road like a log.
I'll do the work myself, already."

But Amnon sprang to his feet
and took the reins of the horse in hand,
leading the wagon to a corner of the square
where it was convenient to set up
the portable forge they carried.

Somewhat confused,
Yossele gathered his crutches
and followed along behind.
It was a golem's nature to obey.
Why was Amnon being so contrary?

The villagers were just as contrary, though.
They brought whole pots to be mended
and cows to be shod instead of horses.
They took things without paying for them
and left payment without taking goods.
Yossele got more and more confused.

"Go make a nuisance of yourself,"
Menachem said to Amnon.
"You are too foolish
to be of any use in this village."

Amnon, who knew his people well,
soon sorted out the chaos
and got everyone moving briskly --
although the exchange
of services and payment
remained rather random.

It all worked out tolerably enough
and the job got done in the end.

As Yossele and Menachem
packed up to leave,
Amnon lay back down
in the middle of the road.

"Do not worry, my friend,"
Menachem said,
patting Yossele on the arm.
"We are done with Chelm for now,
and surely the next village
will be more sensible."

Still, Yossele wondered
how the other golem
could possibly guard his village
while behaving in such a contrary way.
He looked back over his shoulder.

Menachem saw him pondering
and said, "Nu, what do you think
happens when raiders come
and shout at the golem
to get out of their way
and leave them alone?"

Yossele thought about that,
and then laughed his silent laugh,
imagining how the golem
would badger them
until they fled in frustration.

* * *

Notes:

Chelm is an important part of Jewish humor, the customary setting of stories about foolishness.  There actually is a city named Chelm, but it may or may not have anything to do with the humor.  Here is a storyteller relating a story about three wise men from Chelm, which begins around 33:20.

Putz is a Yiddish insult.

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16 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: October 3rd, 2013 01:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, this is a charming Chelm story!

And, well, golems are traditionally not too bright, so it makes sense that the golem of Chelm would be smarter than average.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 3rd, 2013 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Oh, this is a charming Chelm story! <<

Thank you! I'm glad you like it.

>> And, well, golems are traditionally not too bright, so it makes sense that the golem of Chelm would be smarter than average. <<

They're described as dull creatures ... but then so are many other disadvantaged groups, including people with speech impediments.

I'm actually writing Amnon as a contrary. He does the opposite of what he's ordered.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: October 3rd, 2013 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I enjoyed this, especially the punchline. Amnon is a clever contrarian.

Oh, and also! It appears we will be in your area around October 15th. Is that a doable meet-up date for you? Also, since we have no crash space, can you recommend a cheap local hotel or somesuch?

--Rogan
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 4th, 2013 03:45 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I enjoyed this, especially the punchline. Amnon is a clever contrarian. <<

Yay, I'm glad you liked this!

>> Oh, and also! It appears we will be in your area around October 15th. Is that a doable meet-up date for you? <<

*happydance* Yes, that should work. We could meet for a meal, snack, and/or hanging out. Champaign-Urbana has lots of nice places to eat, some of them quite affordable, and there are other options too.

>> Also, since we have no crash space, can you recommend a cheap local hotel or somesuch? <<

We only have a limited experience of local hotels, but we can help look. my_partner_doug says that knowing your itinerary would help figure out which nearby towns might be worth scanning for possibilities. No point going out of the way.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 14th, 2013 08:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

Are you still looking to hook up on the 15th? If so, we need to figure out exactly when and where.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: October 15th, 2013 01:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Okay, sorry for the long delay; my computer busted. Go figure.

I will be in your area it looks like more on the 18th. How does that sound? Sorry, travel is always a bit loosy goosy.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: October 15th, 2013 01:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Ah, bugger me standing. Looking again at my schedule, it looks like I won't be able to make it to your area of Illinois; we can only make it to Chicago. I'm so disappointed! Sorry about that. :/

--Rogan
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 15th, 2013 04:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Alas! Well, maybe you can catch us some other trip.

Meanwhile, enjoy Chicago. I recommend the restaurants on Clark Street. Nearly every ethnicity in the world has one there.
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: October 3rd, 2013 09:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I love it. Amnon was clearly created around the same time that Gronam the Ox drowned the disobedient carp.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 4th, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

*laugh*

You have to be careful about contaminating the water supply.
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: October 3rd, 2013 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is terrific. I grew up with Chelm stories and Golem stories, but I never thought about combining them.

As we say in Jewish by way of congratulations, yashar koach, may your strength continue increase.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 4th, 2013 10:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> This is terrific. I grew up with Chelm stories and Golem stories, but I never thought about combining them. <<

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've done a few Chelm pieces, but this is a favorite.

>> As we say in Jewish by way of congratulations, yashar koach, may your strength continue increase. <<

Yay!
paka From: paka Date: October 3rd, 2013 10:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's awesome.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 4th, 2013 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you enjoyed this so much.
From: technoshaman Date: October 5th, 2013 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
:) Not sure if I *needed* the giggles, but I'm not complaining! :)

Sharing this one...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 5th, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad you enjoyed this.
16 comments or Leave a comment