An unfinished play; spirits are visiting
The ghost of the deposed Chinese Emperor.
There is a new dynasty but some men,
Friends and enemies of the old ruler,
Could never reconcile themselves to it.
Now they too are dead and come
To keep the Emperor’s ghost company.
My father was writing this play when he died
And asked me to try to finish it.
Among the ghosts was – oddly – a rabbi
Come from a remote flood-devastated village
To beg the Emperor for help. (I believe,
Though my father never said, that the rabbi
Does not know that he died on the road ).
My father was a kind and courteous man.
The Emperor and his visitors were real once
(Except, perhaps the rabbi; my father’s shelves
Held several books on the Jews of China)
What more natural than that my father,
Making his leisurely way towards Heaven,
Should stop to see the Emperor?
See the hand of fate in things! My father
Knew languages, but not Chinese;
(Latin he knew, and Hebrew, and some German;
In 1943 he won a medal
As New York’s second-best Spanish student)
Had he failed to invite the rabbi
Who at the Court would translate for him?