Review of Take Hold by Merrill Leffler
Robert Leiter, The Jewish Exponent

Merrill Leffler is a find, his work should clearly be far better known everywhere in this country. Here is "Passion" from the chapbook Take Hold.

What I know of Rabbi Weiss of Bilke, though it would not fill a shot glass, is this: to study Talmud into the night, he'd stick his feet in ice water and keep them there, it was said, to ward off sleep from spreading through his body. I have it on no authority, of course, but I would like to think it was his way to not forget his body while his soul set forth into the thick wilderness of God's law.

O! Rabbi Weiss of Bilke, not even a smudge in my memory, not a pinprick in the history of the dead, I can imagine you at Matisse's table, the light holding you in place, dining on the sweet breath of life, old men wringing from each hour the honey that flows like fire in the blood. Rabbi Weiss of Bilke, for godssake, who knows how you might have forsaken your wife for study, or for that matter how you came to her in dark passion, your appetite for wisdom, like Solomon's, so full you met each other with gratitude and love.

O! Rabbi Weiss of Bilke, I drink to the memory of your feet -- may they live in incandescence to light even the darkest way.

"Passion" is fairly representative of Leffler's style -- in the prose poems he includes in Take Hold -- but he also utilizes standard verse forms. Of these, my favorite is "Metaphor," which should not be missed by those who are wise enough to make their way to Take Hold.