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Mulberry Bushman Suite

in the beginning

everybody was from Ukraine


as I know them,

evolved from Ukrainians

Naftule Branwein did not evolve as quickly as others

playing the klezmer trek of old Ukrainian mountains

somewhere in Catskills

he liked to wrap himself in christmas lights

and one time sweated so much he electrocuted

his armpits and had to be carried off the stage

like a deposed king

that he surely was,

being a grandson of the Strettener Rav,

distinguished Rabbi Yehuda Tzvi Hirsch Brandwein

of Stretyn, true Chassidic royalty though

not as famous as Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, a heavy mystic

whose great-great-grandson Jeremy works at St. Marks bookstore, plays crazy mystic altosax bebop with some very famous people like Daniel Carter and David Krakauer

and me

met him at a klezmer punk show in Williamsburg where he was standing at the bar reading Sun Ra biography

we both have the dandelion-style haircuts which you Americans call jewfro, but I like dandelion better, and better yet,

oduvanchik in Russian

after we came back from Israel it rained in New York for a month straight, a nice change from the desert,

I sat, jobless, in front of the wet window for hours, and one morning,

I walked down Bennett Ave, with a mug, to pick mulberries,

to present to my sweet wife, a feeble attempt at family providership from a stay-home dad, still childless, crackling with memories of the branch I sat on,

on a mulberry tree across from my grandmother’s house, picking and not eating,

to bring as much as possible home, for my parents, Ukrainian Neanderthals,

to our then bare apartment on the seventh floor with no elevator, the first coop building in Kirovograd, red and grey, and I’ll tell you

those mulberries were a lot bigger

and so was everything and everyone around me

bigger and louder

those were the good old prehistorical days

-Jake Marmer


Jake Marmer merges poetry, music, and performance into philosophically potent mixtures such as existentialist dancehall, Talmudic jazz poetry, personalized bop apocalypse. He has performed extensively in New York and Jerusalem, with his band Frantic Turtle, Mima’amakim collective, and various hip downtown characters. More of his work is available at


Welcome to the New Vilna Review

*A Note From the Publisher - February 8, 2012*


Dear readers and contributors,

The New Vilna Review has been going through some changes the past few

months, and our focus has shifted to offering an expanded selection of

poetry, fiction and arts writing. We are once again accepting submissions,

and look forward to continuing to publish some of the most interesting and

thought provoking work in the world of Jewish arts and letters.

-Daniel E. Levenson

Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

The New Vilna Review



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