August 2010

Jeff Friedman


Jeff Friedman's fifth collection of poetry, Working in Flour, will be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in early 2011. His poems, translations and stories have appeared in many literary magazines, including American Poetry Review, Poetry, 5 AM, Margie, Agni Online, Poetry International, Prairie Schooner, Antioch Review, Ontario Review, and The New Republic. His book of translations, Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poems of the Bible, has recently been accepted for publication by Wolfson Press.

Rosh Hashanah    

"This is a time for reflection,"
Rabbi Borax says in a mass email.
I hold my own service.
The moths clinging to the screens
pray to get in. The orchids open
their lovely legs. At the end
of the row, crows badger
each other over hymnals.
I cut the shofar loose.
My dog smells the blasts
and heads downstairs.
What kind of Jew am I?
The kind women at cash registers
glare at, the kind with scalloped
edges and frayed hair,
whose voice rises into prophetic zeal
over the slightest hint of a problem.
I smell tsimmes, brisket,
roasted potatoes, kugel.
I smell candles burning,
and apples dipped in honey
a thousand miles away.
No one in the community
invites me for dinner.
They probably don't even know
I know I'm Jewish.
I remember floods,
earthquakes, bombings,
diseases, deaths—
the misery in 2008.
Why would anyone argue
over their Jewishness?
I flick the lights to get God's
attention. I draw another glass
of wine from the box. I'm
my own shabbos goy,
carrying enough cash
to get in to a movie
and buy some popcorn.
This year will be another year
of war just like last year.
What should I pray for,
a little less blood,
another day on earth?
I bless my wife, my dog,
everyone I love
and everyone I don't love.
I do not bless the new year of kings.
I bless the new year of new years,
the act of creation.
Let's begin again.



Jeff Friedman: Poetry
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