Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A bissel Shtisel for your morning

I have a new poem on Hevria and I hope you like it. Without overtly intending to, it covers my 3 big themes: the human relationship with the Divine, imposter syndrome, and public transportation.

In the exiled world, Jews have
phone calls and Facebook to keep up
with yontifs and life events

In New York I come up empty. A funeral across
Boro Park, streets shut off, Hasidim rend clothes
and scream to Shomayim. In Manhattan

I heard nothing. I davened mincha
between meetings, prayed to my food and
nobody caught it but me and G-d.

[ keep reading ]

Monday, March 25, 2019

G-d's Little Obstacle Course

I wrote this poem a while ago, but wasn't really sure what to do with it. One of those things that seemed too cheesy to non-religious people and too heretical to religious people. But necessity is the evil stepmother of creativity, and I had a post due for Hevria, which -- inspired? no, demanded -- that this poem and I get to know each other better.

I believe in G-d today
and I think it’s making me less clumsy
stopping to notice the patterns in everything
once you’ve given up the excuse
of chaos

flower petals
the bunching together of eyelids
of girls who look at me
and crap

especially crap
laid out on the sidewalk
like an obstacle course
a rhythm and reason to its fall,
impossible to avoid
all trying to catch my feet
no way to get around all of them

[ read the rest ]

Monday, March 11, 2019

My Slow-burning Obsession with Steven Mnuchin

This is a weird one. Sometimes I'll start thinking about Steven Mnuchin and get so mad. Other times he just seems like a paradigm of all that is weird about the Trump administration -- not wrong (although that, too) but weird -- how Trump mocked Hillary for her Goldman Sachs connections and then dragged this guy into the White House, the portfolio of movies he's invested in, including (but not limited to) The Lego Movie, the Thomas Pynchon adaptation Inherent Vice, and Mad Max: Fury Road, and the way his wife invites rubbernecking, Asma al-Assad style.

But most of all it's this picture, and the accompanying tweet by Christopher Ingraham that seemed so sad and poetic and weirdly hopeful, that made me want to write this poem, and which I sampled for the last two verses. There it is. My confession of love. Steven Mnuchin, I hope you're happy. Now please take care of this country.

With enough money
Steven believes
you can change minds

The way his name slips by
in the credits for Avengers
and The Lego Movie

to show his old bullies
whatever they wanted
to do to him, it backfired

Steven marks his territory
like a bulldog on a Sunday outing

The United States, Steven says
is the greatest country
to invest in

and we are his investment
Steven shouldn’t be this happy in life
but somehow figured it out

[ keep reading ]

Monday, January 28, 2019

How to Offend the Jews

Gotta tell you, most of my posts on Hevria don't get much mileage in terms of feedback -- that's mostly for Elad and his political ilk (politilk?) -- but this was the exception. Posted this and, the next time I checked Facebook (I've been staying off Facebook for the most part, because Russians), I got this rebuke from someone who, I'm not sure if they're Jewish or not, but her name is Hana Grossman:

As a mentor and editor, I always tell writers to just ignore this stuff. Your job is to create; your power is in creativity; and while dialogue might come out of it, some people are just there to troll. (Ms. Grossman, I will try not to assume but instead create a likely fictional reality, didn't even make it to the first line of my poem.)

As a writer, though, that shit dives straight under my skin. So I wrote back:
I'm sorry you feel that way. I hope you actually got to read the poem. I try not to tell people what a poem is about - I think it limits the poem's power - but I don't really think it's about how I (or anyone) sees non-Jews at all; I think it's about the struggle between wanting to follow halacha, or Jewish laws, and wanting to live autonomously by your own rules.

by the way, I'm not really on facebook much, but if you'd like to talk further, here's my email.

Anyway, you should read it. Let me know if you're offended please!

There Are Such Goyim in the World

I love how goyim hug
so perfectly freaking friendly
like the only reason they’re not married
is, why waste all that time at a party?

They eat food from anywhere
and eat the same amount of food all week.
They jump out of bed and straight

[ keep reading ]

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Stubby Teeth: a new short story

My story Stubby Teeth was just published in Barzakh Magazine. I'm honored to be in its pages.

So the story is a response to something my

professor Josh Henkin told our class when I was a cocky first-semester grad student at Brooklyn College. He said (and I'm paraphrasing, and he said it better) that it's impossible to write a story from the point of view of an inanimate object, a pet, or a small child, because stories are based on characters being able to act on their own, and a good story is all about your characters taking agency.

Well, I was young and eager and full of chutzpah. I was also a young father, underslept and full of conviction that not only did babies have agency, they were running my whole damn life. I went home and, right away, started writing this story.

I hope you like it.

Stubby Teeth

His mother was gone, and she had never been gone before. And now he was in a very big room with a very big woman who was not his mother, and several toys, and a smattering of other kids, and no mother. The walls were white. There were no windows, and no mother. He screamed.

The scream lasted several minutes, until he had run completely out of breath. He rubbed his stubby teeth together while he gathered the oxygen for more.

A pair of woman’s hands—long fingers, chubby knuckles—sandwiched him, his back and his stomach. They rubbed and rubbed, and though he tried to squirm out of their tractor-beam pull and fight the rhythmic alternation of palms and fingertips, those large hands with their pod-like palms, steady and insistent, and their confident beat lulled him into complacency. Just why was he agitated, again? He no longer remembered.

The woman spoke to him, slow and warm. Gradually, he realized that she wasn’t trying to communicate a specific meaning or directive, as his mother did when she spoke, but rather to give a sort of human background noise, like music during his mother’s yoga or television when he was supposed to not talk to her, a meaningless string of syllables as she guided him to an area of the room with one thick oceanic carpet, on top of which sat a gaggle, a small herd, of other humans, small humans.

(Barzakh's cover by Mali Fischer.)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Writing about Dead People

I was out to breakfast with my brother-in-law, who told me he really liked my latest Hevria piece. I thanked him, then immediately regretted it, because how do you thank someone for memories that aren't yours? This is how it goes.

The Friend I Never Called

BY   JUNE 19, 2018  ESSAY
I steal names. You should know this, first of all, if you want to be friends with me (or friends of friends, or one-night drinking buddies, or if you just wanna ask me about my weird hair). If you have a good name, or a strange name, or a musical name, I might swipe it and stick it in a story.
Alexandra Blitman didn’t just have a name that stuck in my head like a song, but she was a person who did. She was the first person I knew who played cello — before her, the only actual cellist I knew about was the Slovakian cellist in the James Bond movie The Living Daylightswhich my dad let me see with him when I was 9.
So I’m writing a story about a kid named Alex who’s a boy, and his best-friend-who-he-maybe-has-a-crush-on, also named Alix, who’s a girl, and I used real-life Alex’s name. Two strong trochees that might rhyme even though they mostly don’t. And Alex herself — she’s one of these people I always meant to keep up with and never did, and the few times I searched her nothing came up.
Then, last night, this did.
I tell stories for a living, and know that each is more than its headline. But Alexandra Blitman’s feels different:
I met her when we were kids, and we graduated from middle and high school together. We weren’t close, but we were friendly. Alex was friendly with everyone, though — a bright, free spirit whose genuine enthusiasm for life drew all of us to her, the straight arrows and the skaters and the jocks and everyone in between.
She died March 7, days after overdosing on heroin. She was 38.
Read the rest of my post here, or read the original article that inspired my piece.

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