There is a paper
in my room, it is
between the paints and the seforim,
folded neatly in two. It says
It says, “Here is
a safe place for people who are tired,
tired of words like
For people who don’t care if your kippah is knit
or black velvet
or a crown made of fur.
Who know that the
color of your shirt
does not determine the extent of your belief, who
are tired of hearing “modern”
as an insult.
Who have worked hard to find truth,
who have done our best to be good,
who have been told how
good we are or
how not, even if
we had not asked.
We are not the kollel wives of Har Nof, the
kabbalists of Tzfat, the
pilgrims of Hevron.
all of them collectively.
We have never thrown
a rock, or spit
on a child.
We are the talmidim and talmidot
of David HaMelech,
whose own family thought he was a bastard child,
who wrote poetry and
composed on a harp,
who sang and
danced on a mountain top
whose differences made him holier.
today his daughters would not
get into the best Beis Yaakov.
Our differences make us holier, and we
Of desire to be
the ways we connect to
We have been taken out of context.
We have seen yiras shmaim replaced by
the minchag hamakom.
a generation ready for
the descendant of David HaMelech and
Avraham Avinu, two leaders whose
courage to be different shifted the
course of the world.
We think “alternative” has become
a four-letter word because
it is a synonym for
We are asking questions,
we are using
our gifts. You are
welcome to join us
for a meal, or maybe
There is a paper in my room, it is
between the paints and the seforim,
folded neatly in two,
at the bottom
for 13.4 million signatures.
There is a paper
in my room,
I am looking for a door
to hang it on.
talking to my best friend abroad
"i don't see what's
outgrown that place
child in dolls' clothes
sitting in the cafe on the corner
a woman in thin wire glasses
asked me for a flame
i reached to give her one but what i pulled out
"Lighters turn us all into kleptomaniacs" she half-shouted over the Nina Simone,
(her dress shirt turned before she did)
i turned the lighter over in my hand
a picture of a pencil ,something in italian
"i've never seen this in my life"
she said, eyeing the potted plant
"but your hand has."
i said “im not going to marry you”
and you said “oh. do you want to get married?”
and i said “…no”
i was standing in the shower in someone else’s house when i told you i couldnt be with you
and you said “please don’t do this”
and i said “i’m sorry”, like i had to
and i said “goodbye,’ like i had to but i didn’t have to i didn’t do it because i had to i did it because
there’s an itch
you get in your feet
when you realize that all you have to do to be happy is, do
what makes you happy
and i decided i wanted that more than you.
last night when it rained i remembered what it sounded like
when it rained on your tin roof
and how you slept with your breathing shallow,
in case your grandma with dementia walked in and
called you by your grandfather’s name again. i remembered
the day you put the latch on your door to keep her out.
i bet you kept it there to keep me out too.
if i were still there
i’d be riding my bike to you now,
down that long stretch of littered sidewalk,
past that path where you smoked joints behind people’s yards at night
into the driveway by
your house, frame light enough to be carried away by wind
but the wind came
and it blew me away instead.
if i were still there i’d say happy anniversary, i love you so much
if i were still there it would be a lie
but i’m here, so it’s not, because
i can only love you from here, seeing what a fool you are
forgiving you anyway
so happy valentine’s day to your aforementioned buddy
and happy valentine’s day to the high school that almost killed you
and happy valentine’s day to whatever music you’re making
whether its metal,
happy valentine’s day to the safeway cashier
who knew what we were up to and the school theater whose floor we slept on
and the kisses snuck between sleeping bags
and the arms that for three years were my home
in your bed, by your star wars curtains
light every morning, breakfast with your mom
who added me on facebook
and could never spell my name
february last year i was in italy rinsing you out of my mouth
this year i’m in israel eating salt and reading old emails
taking a bath in an empty apartment
you’re going to cut your hair.
The Princess The Shepherd
the daughter of the king, went pacing through the
and the child of nobody fields looking for his sheep
left her New York city kingdom lost some decades ago
for a while he was sleeping a
Middle eastern wonderland sleep he didn’t choose.
where the He
musicians play outside, dreamed of kings,
where the forests sing at night of ancient stones,
where the people cry into walls and of words branded in flame
the children words as much
bring gas masks for him as for his father
to school. and when he awoke his hair
I met her in a room where was singed (like the heat of his
bread was baking will had cooked his knotted
and her softness chest grey) and he rose to his
bubbled up in the yeast, so feet, his strong hands smoking,
I swam past her mote and his congregation dispersed to
found her room of paintings some far off meadow. So he
of eye drops wandered from bloom to bloom
of old woolen hats. distracted, untouched for years
I slept in her room every and petals lined in glass cut his
day for a month palms so deep a full
while she burgundy wine bled out,
laid back on her down so he blessed it,
comforter throne raised his hands to drink, and his
her first love on the telephone leather-bound arms cried out to Gd.
with her sunglasses on to But in his field stood another flower,
hide her royal weepy eyes thorns worn thin, hued so
and a crown of tangled hair, brilliant and sad that he,
brown as the leaves on the ground, seeing royalty approaching,
soft as the light caught chose it from the brush
through smoke in kissed its petals
the window. Out in the field to hesitantly, gently
see the seasons change a and handed
Shepherd handed her the Princess
and for an instant, the three hung suspended,
her hands soft and painted, his perfumed
sharing a rose red as kingship, as remorse.
So the Rose went back with the Princess, where her kind and
graceful hands brought it to her people
and it shone its colors bright and moved the peasants to tears with its promise
But as the people gathered to hear its petals sing, the Rose bloomed richly
thinking of the hands of its Shepherd
out looking for his congregation, ready to build a kingdom of his own.
There is only
places where I should have
been hours ago.
I am empty cigarette carton
I am sweaty neck.
I am calloused feet.
I am going to shoot up
eat some hummus
take the train home.
realized it's just
Sing me to sleep, Holy city -
center of the universe,
light of my life.
Sometimes I sit, 18 and overheated
in the front room of the men's heritage house, where I
play someone else's guitar and twist my hair in my
yellow bundles of uncooked pasta I might
eat out of restlessness.
Tonight my sandal worked idly, pressing
its shadow into my leg when your electric
warm gaze flipped on
and clicked. Out of my beige office boredom
came you - toothy.
But in high school you hit on my
best mate's sister, so, perched next to me on the
only plastic chair at the loudest bar in town, I crouched
down in a puddle of beer onto
raised toes and mentioned your name and he,
being British and emotionally constipated, muttered
something about you between football shrieks and cigarette drags,
sipped his Guiness and saw.
My first winter without you
I spent New Years with my hands in an ancient wall
and the stone set my eyes on fire
each a candle, one burning for shabbat,
one burning for you like a yartzeit that wouldn’t dwindle
mourning your hands, my face buried in your chest.
You were drinking somewhere
and you didn’t want my prayers.
My first winter without you
I filled notebooks and found new arms
I learned what it is
to be afraid of dying young
I learned what it is
to feel home
are not it.
My first spring without you
I floated on the Dead Sea at dawn
and wiped the oil off the wounds in my knees
I prayed with my eyes closed in the marketplace and
filled my fists with the fruits of the season.
I ate books for breakfast.
I spent nights in dim hidden rooms playing bongos until my palms shook
My first spring without you,
I wrote my first song.
I waltzed in the middle of a street party
where the DJ blasted some pounding techno anthem of a budding culture and
I, behind a feathered mask,
kept slow measured time and watched the bloom of my own.
My first summer without you
I had a beer poured over my head by a boy whose
wide shoulders and broad-mouthed accent sent me
leaping back in gaping toothy laughter. I shook
my hair out and chased him into the the Armenian quarter,
but he didn’t run. Daytime
we all baked in our own salt,
marinated in sweet new friendships and nostalgia for
some California coastline - for nights in your living room
with its tin walls and landscapes taped up.
If I looked through your couch cushions now
I might find, I’d think, some bobby pin or blonde hair.
On your wrist a hairband whose
owner you’d forgotten.
My first summer without you
I was spit on by a stranger for the first time, and a
man chased after the car, holding his kippah on his head,
his anguished yelp filling with dust and car exhaust while my
things sat in boxes in America, not belonging to me anymore,
or me not belonging
My first fall without you
it rained so softly the children went outside and opened their mouths
This week a man told me that redemption
is remembering who you were before you lost yourself.
I remember who I was before you,
something gentle, something the
very lightest shade of grey.
You would not recognize me if you saw me now,
calm in the eyes.
Three years together, one year apart,
and not a single poem for you,
How do you explain
to your children that the
horrors of the world are real?
How will I tell my son, We
found a place you can call home but
your bus might not make it to school.
Do not look too Jewish in this part of town
Do not play in the train station
Do not get used
to the weight
of a machine gun.
Or look my
daughter in the eye and say, someday
you might say “no” and someone stronger than you might
You will not tell me
Know that this happens a lot
Know that your wrists pinned against a
echo in the way you move your hands
for as long as you let it
human hands aren’t as heavy as metal shackles
And I’m so sorry
but I won’t be able to
take the weight for you
You’ll wake up in the morning
That I can promise you
You’ll wake up
and your lungs will fill with air
whether you tell them to or not.
I will hold someone
small, with my face
and they’ll cry and I’ll say,
I know you’re tied with little yarn strings to the last life
I know it hurts to be here and
you’re never going back
the older you get the less you’ll remember
what it was like
before you had a body
when you were made of ash and infinite light
You’ll convince yourself you live here and
that your hands are you,
But remember that once you were boundless
Inside my body, without yours.
There is a concept in religious circles here
(and other shapes;
rorschach blots freckled with faith)
that the way to get closest to a person
is to not touch them.
they laid in your car side by side,
her elbow holding her head up like
an exhibit on falling, on disbelief
and you puffed up your unshaven cheeks
and blew in her face.
It blew her eyelashes back and they
bowed their blonde-headed arms at you,
They heard you tell her a
bedtime story with your eyes closed
and they laid down to sleep too, lacquered down with
air conditioning fluid brushed wet through the desert nighttime air.
you promised you wouldn't touch her
lit a cigarette and held it to her mouth,
her lips an inch from your knuckles
and she breathed you in and blew
the smoke out the car window where it
hung suspended like a ghost.
An empath and a mirror walk into a bar
and the empath says
I see myself in you.
Let me buy you too much wine and
kiss your collarbones and
twiddle my fingers on your skull.
and the mirror says,
Yehoshua (what a beautiful name)
Yehoshua, the prophet. I am so tired
of doing the right thing
My knees are sore I
my field of poppies.
So the Prophet says You can rest in my field
if you let me know you, the parts you keep
tied to your hips like bells, or like weights
that clinking prisoner's hymn strapped to your chest.
Know that I know you, even
the parts you left unsaid (Especially those.)
I want to have
my parents' strength.
I want a stranger to vomit in my bed.
I want to crawl into your head and hurt you with
your reflection. Open up your mouth and
I can put the words in myself, but I can't promise my
tongue won't taste like 20 years of forged metal
can't promise every pretty girl in town doesn't have
my metallic tinge behind her teeth.)
(So she says)
Why can't you stay still?
(and the Prophet says)
I'm always running late
(and she says)
I've stopped running
beloved i dreamed
i thought you would have deceived
me and became a star in the kingdom
of heaven" - ee cummings
love, I am
looking for things to promise you.
(i promise) I have noticed the lines next to your eyes
I promise I am a foreign country
i'm not trying to be
I promise sometimes I look in the mirror and I see a child
and I am right.
Build me a castle
made of cigarette butts and litchi fruit
and (i will) wear my crown of white hot ash
and i will burn my Hebrew name into your palms like
some catholic wednesday
like some stolen bicycle
like your sidelit kindness in the cold.
and i will write you a song
sweet enough to
wash the taste
out of your mouth.
there's a star
made out of all the seconds you
cleared on the microwave
just before it was done because
you didn't want
That is where time
goes when it's mad
at its parents, to play
old records and smoke
cheap cigarettes and
complain that its
best friend is dead.
My best friend/is dead/And although she would never sleep in the bed with me/And although she doesn't fit in the dollhouse anymore/I dreamed she was gone the day before it happened/and dreamed she took a part of my life with her. That
your thoughts go
the first time
don't miss someone as much as you did yesterday. I am not proud/that I am waiting/for tomorrow/you are that star/and I will sit on you and dangle my feet in the water/Meet me/in the Mediterranean/so I can kiss your toes goodbye.
washing my hands in the morning,
how to lose things.
If someone were
standing on top of a mountain of sand (maybe on a camel, maybe with a cough)
along the Dead Sea at four this morning they might have heard
one accented thickly enough to leave an aftertaste,
one small forced into lower registers for old reasons echoed in new habits
bouncing along the water like insects, like light
“Talk to me in Hebrew” “Want
to see me walk on water?”
”I have the same handwriting as
my mother” ”Let’s start a religion”
“You can see it in the R’s”
”I was in a war” ”My shoulders
are turning brown”
“Summer is coming” “Your back is smooth”
”I don’t believe in anything” “I got on a plane”
“My fingers are salty” ”There’s
mud in my mouth”
“Your hair is blonder than yesterday”
If someone had been
standing on top of a mountain of sand (maybe itchy, maybe pregnant)
along the Dead Sea at four this morning they might have seen
one white, one brown
floating on the surface, the light coming over the ripples like a thousand slaves carrying morning on their backs
one head on one chest, one palm on one shoulder
live in this water”
My friend Shira
whose name means song and legs mean trouble
wrote a lovesong to God,
hoping He’d buy her redemption
but instead He bought her a sandwich
from the central bus station,
salmon on whole wheat no cucumbers.
I sat with her on the top of the nearest mountain
flashlight in my mouth, rock in my shoe
and watched the buses run later than they’re scheduled to,
hoping my epitaph would read
She might’ve been wrong”.
I remember the day you realized you always write about water
and I always write about fire
I also the remember the week I took too much ibuprofen and
slept with my eyes open in the back of your car while
allison stole from the salad bar at whole foods and
here we are on two different continents
writing poems for men on circled corners of maps
you ripple, me ash
The day all of Israel fell asleep,
bald men in the shuk
lowered their heads onto eggs and squash
and snored out spice and
dropped their cameras and lined the streets like
new roads made of
backpack to cover old stone
little children watching littler children
sharp in their shabbos dresses
laid in the mud and dug their white-tighted knees into the dirt and sighed
sitting in my room
smoking tea and
standing on my head
about my broken foot
the time I turned my
stomach toward yours squinted my
eyes and pretended we were dancing
didn’t ask myself
How many seas I’d sail before
I could sleep in the sand
and I curled up to my
blanket with somebody else’s blood on it
Today all of Jerusalem broke silent,
the buses stopped and passengers froze
sirens singing then stopping one by one like electric geese shot down,
but no one was sleeping
the fallen soldiers of a country young as me, old as dirt.
Your friend asked me if I knew I was the daughter of a king
(I slipped a flower under your dorm room door)
reaking of alcohol wrapping his tsitzis around his fingers
(because I saw you crying, and
smoking a joint behind the quesadilla stand)
I wonder sometimes what I
couldnt leave behind
if I tried.