Jewish Journal

Tag: Poetry

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  • Poem: Commentary

    3 days ago

    Sometime between the chaos of Genesis One

    and the Tower of Babel in Eleven,

    God created language with all its busy verbs,

    its vowels and consonants,

    its dark commandments.


    The Patriarchs might say it started with Eve,

    and point to the gossiping of women. 

    But it...

  • Poem: Sukkot in Jerusalem 5743

    1 week ago

    eternal cycle of fig and aloe olive and oleander:

    a quiet place to watch

    the reaching skyward

    the kicking free of this unquiet dust

    the finding eyes above and a mouth


    everything old here

    everything left for dead

    maneuvers into sunlight


    October 1982

    From “...

  • Poem: Angels

    2 weeks ago

    If the groans and shrieks of martyrs, the shofar cry

    of Yom Kippur really rend the heavens, then I picture it

    like this: clouds are ripped as if by swords, and angels spill

    and spread across the world.

                                                Once a rabbi fled from...

  • Poem: Days of Awe

    September 9, 2015 | 10:59 am

    September. The moon’s gone empty

    as though it too seeks a place inside itself.

    The pool equipment stowed, the mowers

    returned to the shed. A quiet ascends

    like the silence after bells. Soon

    the night birds will call other night birds.

    Each call a small pledge.

    It is...

  • Poem: To Scare the Devil

    September 2, 2015 | 2:38 pm

    The reason the Jews blow the shofar

    on Rosh Hashanah is to scare away

    the devil, Father said. He doesn’t come back

    until after Yom Kippur, which gives

    the Jews a chance to cast away their sins.

    If the devil was around during Yom Kippur,

    he would catch our sins, and...

  • Poem: Ritual

    August 27, 2015 | 1:20 pm

    Is it for our smiling faces
    that she gets up at seven on Fridays to put an apron on
    and stand in front of a hot stove, even in the summer heat
    when the air conditioner’s not working well, even when
    her ankle is swollen and her medicine is making her throat dry
    and her body...

  • Poem: Dante Lucked Out

    August 19, 2015 | 1:16 pm

    T. S. Eliot held that Dante was lucky

    to live in the Middle Ages

    because life then was more logically organized

    and society more coherent. The rest of us however

    can’t be as sure that if we’d had the fortune

    to walk along the Arno and look at the pretty girls


  • Poem: For Rose

    August 5, 2015 | 3:20 pm

    Practical, we take the names of our dead

    because the dead are sturdy — stern mantles

    of opportunity, watching as we shoulder them

    from windowpanes, closets. Rose — one curling r 


    makes hundreds of us, Rachels, Rivkas, Renates,

    Richards, Ronalds, this slip of a woman

  • Poem: Dwelling Place

    July 29, 2015 | 2:03 pm

    Summer beetles augured blue ponds in every leaf

    of the cherry tree.

    Cooler that way. The load lighter.

    Open wells for the sun to fall through.

                        Pennywhistles for wind. 

                                    Burn marks from God’s magnifying glass.

    Is that...

  • Poem: Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha I

    July 27, 2015 | 9:50 am

    (in which he fails to reverse the decree)

    We thought poverty would protect us

    but it did not.


    We thought suffering would weaken us

    but it did not.


    When the golden eagle sat on our temple,

    we did not value gold. 


    When the taxes were heavy

    we had nothing...

  • Poem: Seamstress

    July 16, 2015 | 10:58 am

    My mother saved wrapping paper folded in neat angles and put away for never The tear should be made on the left side, over the heart Hundred of buttons in a deep, metal tin Made vertically, beginning near the neck, and extend down about three inches I took lessons at Singer Sewing...

  • Poem: Echo Locating

    July 2, 2015 | 12:25 pm

    If you are lucky

    you will find your echo,

    not the cartoon version,

    perched on a canyon’s edge

    with the empty yelling

    & cheeks like apples,

    but the space that extends you,

    fills the void

    & becomes you

    the way twigs return to a tree,


    First published in “The Breath Before Birds Fly” (2013).

    M.E. Silverman is poetry editor at Blue Lyra Review and review editor of Museum of Americana and author of the chapbook “The Breath Before Birds Fly” (ELJ Press, 2013).

  • Poem: Souvenir

    June 24, 2015 | 4:26 pm

    In Kraków’s marketplace, the kiosks vend             
    carved men at thirty złotys each:  a Jew                 
    who grips the Torah in his wooden hands,             
    a beggar Jew, a bobble-headed Jew                        
    whose body sways and nods with just a pull         ...

  • Poem: In my hands

    June 17, 2015 | 2:44 pm

    In my hands I lift

    the goblet of red wine

    in the middle of a field

    up toward the sky

    and bless the red strength

    that flames

    like a torch

    in dark

    bony hands.

    “In My Hands” is translated by Sarah Traister Moskovitz. The poem is from the Ringelblum Archives and appears in poetryinhell.org

    Simkha Shayevitch died 1944 in Auschwitz of typhoid. He was one of the best-known poets in the Lodz Ghetto and his poetry was popular throughout Jewish Poland.

  • Poem: The Little Ice Age

    June 11, 2015 | 1:27 pm

    Europe shivered for centuries in the Little Ice Age.

    Rivers froze; crops failed;

    people chewed on pine bark, begged             

    the stubborn heavens for mercy;                                  


  • The New Egypt

    May 13, 2015 | 3:54 pm

    I think of my father who believes
    a Jew can outwit fate by owning land.
    Slave to property now, I mow
    and mow, my destiny the new Egypt.
    From his father, the tailor, he learned not
    to rent but to own; to borrow to buy.
    To conform, I disguise myself and drag
    the mower into the...

  • Poem: Bailout Package

    May 7, 2015 | 3:45 pm

    They paid the farmer not to farm.

    They told the surgeon to do no harm.

    They paid the parishioner not to pray.

    They paid the piano player not to play.


    They paid the doctor not to heal.

    They paid the thief not to steal.

    They paid the writer not to write.

    They paid...

  • Poem: Lay Back the Darkness

    April 23, 2015 | 1:50 pm

    My father in the night shuffling from room to room

    on an obscure mission through the hallway.

    Help me, spirits, to penetrate his dream

    and ease his restless passage.

    Lay back the darkness for a salesman

    who could charm everything but the shadows,

    an immigrant who stands...

  • Poem: Death Fugue (Echo) after Stefan George

    April 9, 2015 | 9:24 am

    In wind’s web

    Was my fate,

    In trauma’s eye,

    In only a smile

    As you gave

    At moist midnight

    When your glance ignited.

    Now Mays drone on:

    Now I grieve only

    For your eyes and hair

    All day

    In always longing,

    dein goldenes Haar Margarete

    dein aschenes Haar...

  • Poem: How to Make a Jewish Marriage 1949

    March 26, 2015 | 11:15 am

    Beware the grinding fist, the blanched knuckle, the outstretched hand.
    Beware the man who takes any girl’s face between his hands.

    The laughing man — greet him with your entire self. Take him
    patiently, but take him: his want makes an open, flattened hand.

    Ride his wishes to...

  • Poem: The Hebrew Word for Mysticism is the Same as To Receive

    March 18, 2015 | 4:02 pm

    I was walking across the parking lot

    morning smell of lilacs

    when a girl fell like a bird


    Blood splayed from her lip,

    her body shimmered like a rain stick.

    I held her hand.

    The Talmud considers the soul

            and when it becomes...

  • Poem: Pursuit

    March 11, 2015 | 2:59 pm

    Like the deer stag in my garden

    who batters his head with his hind leg


    to free himself from a huge poplar branch

    caught in the great crown of his antlers —


    Like one of the furies torn from ancient myth —

    I drag the forest along behind me,


    my dead crowded...

  • Poem: The History of the Date

    March 4, 2015 | 4:01 pm

    Those aren’t wrinkles, merely places where

    the skin is burrowing to lick her own

    dark sweetness. Since her body’s fashioned from

    the clay remaining after Adam’s spine and hair,

    she often yields the fibers of her trees

    for baskets, shoes, the rope and needles, thread


  • Poem: Josephs, In a Time of No Peace

    February 25, 2015 | 12:24 pm

    A gnarl of streets
    and Purim boys — my sons with striped towels
    for their many-colored coats — roam them
    until a rock, a boom, debris.

    Then a rain of flesh on a door in a city

    Because my father’s father’s
    father stole a goat, the child of that goatless
    father’s father’s...

  • Poem: Where I Live Now

    February 18, 2015 | 12:56 pm

    Tall Janet’s cane sounds a jangle of keys

    Melvin keeps time to a thud as he seizes

    the wooden handle of his, rubber-tipped, sorely

    needed on carpet or linoleum floor.

    A third leg evolves for many here.

    Zigzagged by Peter, motorized, who steers

    with childhood memory of...

  • Poem: From the Whirlwind

    February 4, 2015 | 12:34 pm

    From the whirlwind

    a voice answers

    the ill asked question

    and the answer is

    no answer

    a caution

    a rebuke


    an evasion

    for the question

    ill asked

    can the answer be other

    than no answer


    June 2000

    From “The Lord Has a Taste for Clowning,” Skirball...

  • Poem: Funky Fuchsia

    January 29, 2015 | 1:16 pm

    Friday nights at my mother-in-law’s

    I follow the exquisite nails

    of my Armenian sister-in-law from Iran.

    Pale blue sometimes like her mohair sweater,

    or yellow, pushing back a strand of dark hair.

    Burgundy on the white bread she raises

    to her lips at the evening meal;

  • Chana Bloch’s new poems on art, life and the old world

    January 9, 2015 | 2:51 pm

    Great anticipation and much pleasure always accompany the release of a new book of poetry by a major poet. This certainly is the case for Chana Bloch's “Swimming in the Rain, New and Selected Poems 1980-2015” (Autumn House Press). The book includes 29 new poems and includes...

  • Poem: Meet Me (Breathless)

    January 7, 2015 | 11:14 am

    on the corner of sky and lamppost. I will look for you so wear your eyes. Wear your face that has slept in curls. I will breathe the tulip scent of your hair and the sidewalk’s soot-lined snow. Don’t forget to bring your delicate feet, those edible toes uncold in your oversized...

  • Poem: Small Antiques

    December 17, 2014 | 1:37 pm

    Once there were three girls beautiful as gold,

    who bragged about the rare antiques each of them did hold;

    “I have a little head scarf,” one boasted with pride —

    “From my great grandmother, with squares and flowers wide.” 

    “I have a jeweled needle” — the second proudly...

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