To Vikhlya Moishka Gershkovna Khalfin, 1912–2003
Vera, though I never called you that, you,
babushka, groys bubby, mamen, whose name
in Russian rings of faith, in Yiddish
of debate, in Latin it is all that’s true,
though other romance tongues have argued you
claim impartial judgment like a god.
Then in the German, Vera is a strong
wild boar, sowing the fields your yellow hue.
up out of the letters of your own
Talmudic name: vav vav yud resh aleph,
two hooks, wisdom, beginning or a head,
then teacher. Vera, let me say your name again:
Which tongue do I believe? And which did you?