Karen Greenbaum-Maya




What is it like to be Kafka now, the way he lives today in the half-light of European history before the Holocaust?

The Jungians say that Kafka wrote his society’s collective dream, pre-cognitively. Isn’t that awful? They mean that his visions foretold the Nazis’ gift for psychological torture, for the trip-wire of regulations, for the waking nightmares enacted against every single creature, every single bit of joy in life.

Had there been no Nazis, only anti-Semites, we would still know that Kafka had foretold the modern mechanics of shredding souls. The Zionists say that he should have escaped Europe, that in Zion his rope would have been longer, given him more time before coming to its end. Why does everyone believe that open air and grinding physical labor can relieve everyone else’s troubles? As well believe that a stint in the Army, preferably the infantry, would have—what? cured him? made him normal? He was already strong enough to look nightmares in the eye and force them onto paper. He earned his adjective. You want him to be happy while birthing such monsters? Who the hell are you?

Physicians have claimed Kafka occupies some impossible zone between hypochondriac and Christ-figure, suffering the pains and fears of the flesh so that we might know another path. Oh, get out of here. He did not write so that we would not have to suffer ourselves. Is Kafka then another Jewish-begotten son of God, made flesh to tell us that there is no salvation, not through good works and certainly not through the grace of God. He did not come to give answers, nor to pose questions. No one is elected to anything but futility, if not fast then slow, inescapable. Better to leave the physicians out. Just another waiting room, eating up our only life.


KAREN GREENBAUM-MAYA, retired clinical psychologist, German major, two-time Pushcart nominee and occasional photographer, is getting by. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies including B O D Y, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Comstock Poetry Review, Off the Coast, Otoliths, Naugatuck Poetry Review, and Measure. Kattywompus Press publishes her two chapbooks, Burrowing Song (2013) and Eggs Satori (2014). Kelsay Books publishes The Book of Knots and their Untying (2016). She co-hosts Fourth Sundays, a poetry series in Claremont, California.


Read more by Karen Greenbaum-Maya:

Author’s Website
Poem in Goreyesque
Three poems in Otoliths
Two poems in the September 2017 issue of B O D Y
Two poems in the October 2013 issue of B O D Y
Two poems in the September 2012 issue of B O D Y