Loose peoples, or: One tightly knit?

My 1st ‘blues stanza’

Oh, Hebrew has long been our people's tongue
Holy tongue, it's always been our ancient tongue
That few know today for we're so far-flung

Most Jews have seen it only in prayer books
Though most don't ever open up prayer books
How many give the Torah even single looks?

Diaspora Jews from Israel live split
Peoples since Babel times are always split
Are Jews loose peoples or one tightly knit?

Foods, customs, history also cultures define
But more so our shared languages cultures define
We Jews fast unraveling, no longer entwined

We're scattered across shores of oceans blue
Words foreign float across those oceans blue
Oh, what unites us? Perhaps I never knew...

d’Verse prompt:

Blue Tuesday

At d’Verse, we were prompted to “write blue” ~ a splash of blue, an ocean of blue, a shimmer of blue. Gaze into the distance, or look down at the sapphire on your finger. Take us to the Blue Ridge Mountains or the Blue Lagoon. Pour a Blue Monday cocktail, slap some blues on the juke box and let’s poem.


Rubber, or: Glue

My 1st rhyming sestina

Some people don't like the word Jew 
A label that fits me like comfy shoe 
Jews were murdered and made into glue 
Regarded as less than beasts at a zoo 
Blamed for both the plague and the flu 
In the end, though, it's the haters who stew 

Jewish cholent is a magical stew
If you'd like some, just befriend a Jew 
It can cure both COVID and the flu
And when it spills, it won't stain your shoe
Come, let's pack some for a trip to the zoo
Food and family bind us like glue

From true history we cannot unglue
All began with primordial stew
We all got here by way of the zoo
European; African; Jew
Mortality fits us all like a shoe
And we die of the very same flus

There are always new strains of the flu
Viruses to human cell membranes glue
Vaccines help but cannot fully shoe
We are but chunks of meat in this stew
Asian; South American; Jew
Are we destined to live as if in a zoo?

It takes a great deal to get me zooed
I don't suffer much from brown bottle flu
My friends joke that I'm a Russian Jew
I reply that I'm rubber, they're glue
And we laugh over hearty Jew stew
The secret ingredient's sole of shoe

In the heat, men buzzing flies shoo
But not so those beasts at the zoo
Nor are they wont to sit and stew
Every species has its own flu 
DNA is a powerful glue 
Oceanian; North American; Jew 

Some racists claim diplomatic flu
When accused, they stand as if glued
Much abashed by this very proud Jew


  • My initial intentions in writing this poem were:
    1. Write a sestina that rhymes
    2. Write a poem about antisemitism
  • I deliberately used the word ‘Jew’ as one of the rhyming words; the other five words that rhymed with ‘Jew’ were picked at random.

Impersonal, or: God

First matters too much, I -  
Second, too intimate, 
    You - 
like the rest, 
    aged bearded Jew -
like those before, doesn't even
like all that are
like him in
    way including -
no - just
he, him, third 
person is impersonal 
        enough for -
    for - description

Right, God? Right?
        Right? All just -
    just - characters 
Your play - second -
Your mind - intimate -
Your imagination 
so why -
        why - why - make it
    personal? why
        make it
person? He - 
him - different only
    insofar as every person 
different only
    from every other

Make it 
    Make it 
all just - 
he's just -
      - matter
Right, God? 
    Right? Right? Like
all the rest,
    aged bearded Jew -
Graying, withering, wondering
        whether words fray too 
        like the sinews of his - His -
    for he is matter 
    for unto matter
        he shall return
like those before 
like all that are
like Him


‘Open link night’

For the most recent ‘open link night’ I have decided to share a poem that I wrote nearly one year ago (in early June), not longer after I created this blog. In general, I don’t feel particularly comfortable writing free verse, and this was one of my earliest attempts at it.

You think that way because you’re a poet

The frame maker’s wife

My wife is avidly into jigsaw puzzle and painting by numbers.

Several weeks ago, she glued several of her completed puzzles unto backing boards; and I brought them to the local frame maker’s shop. Then, last week, it came time for me to pick them up. The frame maker cupped some cardboard around the wire on one of the frames, wrapped them together for me, and advised me to carry them by the wire. I was nearly at the bus stop when the wire broke.

I carried the three frames back to the shop with both hands (which is what I had intended to do originally), and the frame maker replaced the wire. I watched him working with great curiosity. “This is really interesting,” I said, “Most of the time we purchase things when they’re complete, and we have absolutely no idea what went into making them.”

“You think that way because you’re a poet,” responded the frame maker’s wife and requested a link to my website.

Living in poem

I constantly walk around mumbling words under my breath nowadays, attempting to articulate that which I am experiencing. This is something that I have been increasingly becoming aware over the course of the last year, ever since I started writing poetry.

I’ve also started looking more closely at the Jerusalem skies and at local flora. These are things that I never did before; I was usually in such a rush to get somewhere. Just yesterday, I noticed some fuzzy deep red flowers that had fallen from a tree and pointed them out to my six-year-old daughter. As soon as I drew her attention to them, I thought to myself, “Wow; what has happened to me?”

As writing poetry has become a passion, I haven’t only been noticing differences in how I think – I’ve been noticing that my more recent poems feel different to me. It’s difficult to explain, but when I write a poem, I feel that it expresses more than the words within it. It even expresses something more than my intended meaning. My poems are expressing – me. Poems are comprised of words, of course, but what they mean and how they are experienced go far beyond that.

When I a poem feels complete, I often experience a rush of relief – a sense of… it feels so lovely to have expressed myself!

Politics, religion, and…

I follow U.S. and Israeli politics very closely, and I enjoy political conversations with other well-informed people. Also, while I am no expert on religion, let alone Judaism, I enjoy theological discussions with others who are open to considering religious ideas critically from different angles. To a large extent, there is often a great deal of overlap between religion and politics, especially so in Israel, where the Chief Rabbinate is an official organ of the State. Of course, plenty of intelligent people are interested in neither politics, nor religion, but I often find that my conversations with such people on other subjects are relatively short-lived.

Now, this is not to say that I only think about religion and politics. In fact, that’s very much not the case, but at any given moment, I don’t necessarily know what it is that I am thinking about because many of my thoughts seem to defy my comprehension. Such thoughts are more like… impressions, perhaps. More like… sensations. And it’s precisely these sorts of thoughts that I am able to express in my poetry. Sometimes I find that crafting a poem helps me better understand that which is on my mind. Sometimes my poetry doesn’t directly relate to these hazy thoughts, but I am nonetheless left feeling that they had a hand in shaping my verses.

So when my conversations with others inevitably taper off, I often find myself reflecting inwards and mumbling words under my breath. I often find myself longing for my computer keyboard or, at the very least, a pad of paper and writing implement.

I was reminded of this at a recent family gathering for Israel Independence Day. It was terrific to see my cousins, all of whom I love and think of highly, but it didn’t take long for our conversations to die out. It wasn’t for lack of affection or curiosity, but we simply did not have very much to say to one another after hugging and catching up… and, as usual, I quickly found my mind brimming over with words that sought release.

Blogging & identity

Often, I reflect upon how well my blog represents me as a person.

There are many things that I don’t write [about] here at the Skeptic’s Kaddish, where I have full control over the subjects I raise and the comments I respond to. This leads me to feel that there is something inherently artificial about blogging… something… as though… it’s as though I’m fooling myself in a way. After all, this isn’t real life – it’s merely an imaginary realm that I’ve thrown myself into.

On the other hand, I very strongly feel that there is something more true about my poems and reflections here on the Skeptic’s Kaddish than I often have the opportunity to express to others in person. I may be presenting an idealized version of myself online, but it’s also a version that reflects deep feelings and notions of mine, of which I am often unaware or confused by until I run the tips of my fingers across my keyboard…

Half a dozen of the other, or: Jew

Tassels swinging as they walk
to the Wall on Saturdays;
      perhaps not. It depends,
      you know. Some wear frock 
      coats so you wouldn't
      know it; 
      plus- tassels probably don't swing much under heavy polyester.
I went abroad
to teach a group of secular Jews
      from Russia 
      in Georgia. The
      country. I wore my skullcap (that's
      not what I call it) and
      only ate kosher food. They asked me all about ultra-
Orthodoxy. I'm no authority. No
insider. Most of that community sees
      me as no 
      different than secular
      Jews, perhaps "worse".
      Complicated to explain 
      without getting into theology.
Hard to explain even
to Jews. Moving
      on - 
      I live 
      with them in holy Jerusalem;
      a large group assembles on Saturdays
      near my former downtown apartment to block
traffic. My secular father found
this fascinating, as he did
      nearly everything; my wife 
      found it degrading. Me too.
      Most who protest weekly 
      wear those frock coats,
      indicating membership in a Hasidic sect. Those who
wear modern black
business jackets  
      are of the "Lithuanian" ultra-
      Orthodox persuasion, which, only several centuries ago,
      vehemently opposed
      Hasidic ways. 
      Now they're united in Israel's parliament 
against serving in the 
defense forces, despite 
      living under their protection.
      Difficult not to let
      bias show like my epidermis.
      I'll try
      to stick to the facts, Sir, Ma'am. That's what I am
here for. Not so sexy
writing about Jews; not
      something the world cares to know about.
      Write what 
      you know. 
      Some, mostly Hasidic,
      will never, ever see my words online because their rabbis 
forbid Internet access. Oh.
Those tassels are actually fringes,
      tzitzit in Hebrew, 
      which I wear, sometimes
      for months at a stretch, until I tire
      or struggle
      through a religious crisis. Those frock coats?  
Bekishes. Never worn one, nor
do I 
      want to. It's ironic (
      that they adopted the dress of non-
      Jews in the Czarist 
      era and claim today that it's authentic Jewish garb.
I wouldn't wear that, even to cover
      my epidermis, 
      but I'm not trying 
      to. Ultra-Orthodox 
      women don't wear pants and cover their hair upon marriage. 
      Some wear wigs; but some heed rabbis who rule:
Personally, oh-
      never mind. Just the facts, Ma'am, Sir.
      My skull cap is a kippah; that's
      Hebrew. Means
      dome. Many call it
      yarmulke. That's Yiddish. The majority who speak Yiddish
are Hasidic. The majority  
who speak modern Hebrew
      are Israeli.
      Jews' exteriors once mattered more
      to me. I saw wisdom in beards;
      now I have one;
      it's meaningless. I once asked a rabbi why he didn't have one.
He'd never thought
about it; I felt foolish. Still
      do. If tzitzit are concealed 
      by bekishes, you'll 
      note ear locks swinging as they 
      walk to the Wall on Saturdays;
      perhaps not, but most Hasidic males have them. I 
don't. I do
have insight into their 
      lifestyles, as I've studied
      them; we share
      a heritage and religious texts.
      The rub is that most 
      of the world sees me and assumes I am one. I


Open Link

For today’s d’Verse open link, I’ve decided to share a free verse poem that I wrote ten months ago, not long after I created this blog.

I rarely write free verse, although I think I should do more of it… but I struggle with poetry that doesn’t have any rules attached to it. What is it exactly that makes the above staggered sequence of words a poem?

Earthly spin, or: Greatest sin

A poet’s lament

What, I wonder, rests within? Underneath my skin?

True, I see a forehead; and, through my beard, a chin,
But I've never known my organs, nor blood vessels thin.
Perhaps I'm naught but poetry and have always been.

I strain to hear my rhythm through daily bustling din;
All thoughts of self-discovery swept up in earthly spin.
Oh -- dreadful that survival might be the greatest sin!


The above poem is in response to d’Verse’s ‘The Body & Poetry’ prompt.

The challenge:

Write a poem about the body parts (e.g. eyes, hands, feet) as a metaphor and/or story.

It doesn’t have to be about your body or family’s history (from the first person experience), if this makes it uncomfortable for you.

You can write about the body’s experience of someone else (from a third person narrative perspective).  You create the mood – serious, or sad or sexy, or funny or filled with nostalgia.

Circumcised, or: Barely

Sevenling (I am such)

My 1st sevenling

I am such a friggin' Jew; circumcised; born 
in and residing in the capital of Israel; always,
always walking around with a yarmulke.

I don't compose poetry in Hebrew; I 
don't hate; I have difficulty believing in my One 
True God, let alone in any foreign ones.

I am just as different as I am.

I discovered the ‘sevenling’ form on Ron Lavalette’s blog, and I just had to give it a go! (this probably won’t be my last one)