Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Sweater Dog

This is Madcap Review #10, and herewith are two poems of mine that are published therein.

Sweater Dog Brings Himself Joy

The happiest tiny dogis kicking up dirt in his sweater
His paws don’t scratch much grassbut tiny shitlike flakes snow all over


The only mess he can makeso delightfully constipated
Here's the poem on their site. It really happened! One morning I was walking to work and this enormously tiny weiner dog was frolicking in the freshly unsnowed grass, kicking it up all over the place. It felt like he couldn't get it out and was just using the dirt as a substitute to make him feel better about himself. The owner wasn't looking at all. The dog stopped and looked straight at me. I think we shared a moment. I hope he felt better about himself.
They also published another poem of mine, My Jesus Fear. Really, you might want to just go and read the whole dang issue, which has a weirdly labyrinthine clickthrough pattern and is really strange and enjoyable, and has a great deal of good, freaky art.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

All hail Zuby Nehty, guardians of Weird Music forever 🤘

Today I wrote about the odyssey of the second (and first) times I saw Zuby Nehty, one of my favorite bands. In the story, I describe them as "Operation Ivy meets They Might Be Giants," which I realize is a bit of an insider name-drop. (I try to avoid mentioning too many obscure bands, unless of course I'm writing about them, since some reviewers complained when Goldbergs came out that I was too punk-rock with my band knowledge. But here, I think it's ok.)

This happened almost 20 years ago, and I'm startled I remember this much. As with all nonfiction, I'm nervous that it means more to me than it ever could mean to anyone else. But that's why I'm sharing it, I guess. Here's how I found out about Zuby Nehty, and part of why I love them so much.

A Concert at the End of Prague

For a year I lived in Prague. I was living deep in the middle of my own thoughts, desperately wanting to find my own inner Kafka, kind of suspecting that even Kafka didn’t really want to find his inner Kafka. Eastern Europe appealed to me, part because of its historical Judaism, part because it was just so damn vampiric.
I signed up for a study-abroad program — because my American school didn’t have a program available in the country, I enrolled directly in the Czech foreign-student program. Several students from another program were on my flight, a more lavish American program, staying in dorms that faintly resembled hotel rooms. We were housed in the more modest Czech student dorms, a fake-wooden-paneled Communist affair with mattresses stuffed with sawdust and a single receptionist posted at the door — the same blank-faced woman sat there, day and night — who did not know, or steadfastly refused, to speak English.
We were a motley crew: a handful of Americans, one or two representatives from an assortment of European countries, and several Finns. Weirdly, they all were Czechophiliacs, knowledgeable in both the country’s history and its contemporary culture, as though a whole gang of the coolest kids in Helsinki’s premier art school all climbed on a plane one day and, to their mutual surprise, found that they’d all bought tickets for the same place. 

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.)

Blog Archive