AFTERLIFE

In the farthest reaches
of the afterlife, the old men
gather each day, although
day and night are meaningless
to them, just assigned
for purposes of the writer.

The Buddha recites sutras
hoping the others will
be in the moment with him,
while Hillel smiles, stands
on one foot and dreams
of a lean pastrami on rye
with a slice of half sour.

Christ muses on when
mankind might be ready
for his return visit,
and Hillel says “good luck
with that, it’s been downhill
with them for two millenia.

Shroedinger sits off
to the side staring intently
at the box, wondering
if there is a cat inside.

THE FROG

I can still smell the formaldahyde,
see the frog pithed to the board
as I went about dissecting it,
taking copious notes on what
I found, identifying organs,
both of us hidden in a corner
of our fourth grade classroom
so the other students didn’t
feel like they had to vomit.

This Yom Kippur, even though
I no longer practice the faith
of my youth and early adulthood
I shall seek the forgiveness
of the frog who thought
he was giving his life
in the early training of a doctor,
not one who ended up practicing law,
and know he will probably
forgive me for even amphibians
have compassion for us,
despite our obvious shortcomings.

TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT

I am there, a classroom,
elementary or middle school,
Charleston, West Virginia
1930’s, girls in proper skirts,
saddle shoes, the old woman
at the front of the room,
first day of a new year.

“Jones”, a hand goes up,
“Murphy”, another rises slowly,
“Padlibsky, what kind
of name is that, Jew, or
some kind or Ruskie maybe?”
A small voice answers
Lithuanian, ma’am.

A scene that never
happened, a name changed
so that day the teacher
called out “Wells”
and she smiled and
quickly raised her hand.

First Published in Culture & Identity, Vol. 2, The Poet (2022)

BOOK TWO

So if I have it right, God
managed to come up with ten
plagues for Moses to visit
on Pharaoh, although at the time
Moses probably could not
understand why it was ten,
since God was boundlessly
creative, or so He told Moses.

Maybe it dawned on Moses
when wandering in the desert
that ten was a convenient number,
after all, he only gave Moses
ten commandments, but I doubt
he told Moses they were
a starter set and the other
603 would come along
in due course, but Moses
wouldn’t take the blame
for them, he’d be written
out of the story in Book Two.

JUSTICE

The Rabbi always said that
the highest form of justice
would be to teach a man to fish,
rather than to donate fish to him.

The Rabbi in question is now
long dead, and in so many places
teaching a man to fish will only
enable him to poison his family.

We have laid waste to ouir world
assuming someone will clean it up
for us, and we do throw money
as our attempt at atonement.

So perhaps we should give
out brooms, and hope for the best.

ILL SUITED

My father wanted to take
me to buy my first suit, said
he knew a tailor who could
fashion one perfect for
my pending Bar Mitzvah,
a nice wool blend, he said.

Mother about threw a fit.
“Take him to the department
store or even Goodwill,
for God’s sake, he’s only
going to wear it once.”

My father had learned
that some battles are best
left unfought, so he
compromised and we went
to the men’s shop and I wore
that sport coat three times
before outgrowing it, and
donating it to Goodwill.

SUDDENLY MORTAL

I now struggle to remember just when
my childhood suddenly ended, when
I became mortal, and the childhood fears
were replaced by those of the real world.

It might have been watching the news,
the planes at Dover disgorging coffin
after coffin, each neatly flag draped until
the flag became a symbol only of death.

It might have been the first time a kid
on the playground at school called me
Jewboy and asked why I didn’t also
perish in the ovens with my Polish kin.

It might have been as they wheeled me
into the operating room, my fever 105
unsure of what they would find, I then
unsure I would be alive to learn about it.

It might have been that as an adoptee
I knew I never had the childhood
of my natural born siblings, I always
the outsider, mom’s words notwithstanding.

First Published in Cerasus Magazine (UK), Issue 3, 2021

A PAINFUL REMINDER

I had it good, I

had it easy, I

would be the first

to admit it, to save

you the trouble

of reminding me,

more by way

of illustrating how

badly you had it.

I’ll concede you

had it rough, 

money always 

tight, but you 

never were, never

would be a Jewboy

although you 

and your friends

reminded me I

was, constantly.

HEAVEN CAN WAIT

A Rabbi once told me that
if you want to get to heaven,
something Jews don’t believe in,
you must atone to those you
have harmed, or injured
before you die.

I’ve started making a list,
and it feels like I am in
some wierd version of
High Fidelity, but mine
is more than a top five.

I’ve made a few efforts,
some accepted, some not,
but I have come to realize
that if I don’t believe in heaven
and I was a lawyer for years,
there is no way I am
getting in, atoning or not.

CRUCIFICTION

I am mystic, thief, madman,
all that, considerably more,
never begging, always taken
what is arrayed before me
favor curried, passage guaranteed
coins gathered, stored so there
are none to cover the eyes or pay
the ferryman’s wages.
I can turn wine to water
and hide fish in the midst
of loaves, the trick is
to distract you so the order
is reversed, a sleight unseen.
I am truly the prodigal son
vaudevillian and fall guy
and the spikes are a bitch
but the view is something to behold.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021