Adapted from Rabbi Nachman’s “The Rabbi and His Son”

He had a little room in his father’s house where he used to sit like the little room in which I sit, bare, featureless, but with a Samsung laptop and a Canon printer and a picture of Ma and Pa Bunny from Broken Toyland so I can look up occasionally  and be reminded that degradation exists.

But his little room had only a table and a chair and books, well-thumbed, well-fingered, with burns from his penetrating stare. But his soul could not persevere over the books.  He was like a child in an American public school in the 1950’s, looking every seventeen seconds at the clock on the wall, the clock like a flat, round stone.

His glance did not stay on the endless surfaces of rigid letter, but again and again flew out over the yellow billows of corn to the dark streak of the distant fir woods. There were Christian boys working out there, not manacled by words. He got up and left the classroom, the scolding voice of the rabbi fast fading in his ears.

He approached the Christians, who began to deride him. He knew the only way he could escape from the endless words was not to use them. Wordlessly, he went to the biggest boy and punched him, knocked him down. He was naturally strong, even without exercise.

When the boy got up, he knocked him down again. In that way he got work, escaped Biblical studies and escaped his father, whom he detested.


However, when he became an adult, the situations of his life got harder, not easier. He reports:

I am thinking about my roto-tiller sitting quiescent in my locked horse barn, a very secure building with a tight door and a tight window, though not as tight as the door in the room I now inhabit against my will, forever it seems, indefinite detention without trial.

I vividly remember when I bought the roto-tiller at an estate sale. It was old and had not been run for many years, and was clogged with old oil, grease, and ruined gas. Yet I sensed the love of the dead owner and resurrected his machine. Though it is hard to start, once running it works perfectly, and many seasons I steered it through the winter-toughened ground to prepare for the insertion of fertile seeds. I still taste my heritage tomatoes.

I have been here long enough to forget what my crime was alleged to be, one I didn’t commit, but all accused claim innocence, they say, so I am damned. Sometimes I’m pulled out and questioned and then I get a clue, something against the government, but I don’t hate this government that has incarcerated me. Neither do I love it.

My capacity for reflection and understanding is limited. I have trusted God to do my understanding for me. But how long must I be here? I am aging. My body is losing its sap. If I ever return, I may be useless to my wife and children. So I pray that my indefinite detention becomes defined. That is all I ask.


author bio:

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over twelve-hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes.  His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver.