July 2007


by Adina Kabaker

“So what do we do now?” says Mr. Finkl. “The cleaning lady used a butter knife to cut her bologna sandwich and it’s not kosher any more.”

“You must clean it in boiling water,” says Old Lady Mandelstamm, “and then bury it in the back yard for six days.”

“A month,” says Myrna, the old-maid sister of Mrs. Finkl, pursing her lancet of a mouth. “MY rabbi says a month.”

“Oy, I can’t believe it, that such a young girl is more frum than me,” says Old Lady Mandelstamm. “Six days is enough.”

“And I don’t believe YOU people,” says Aunt Feigie, the anarcho-syndicalist pinko who doesn’t believe in God. “If there is a god, he’s more interested in what comes out of your mouth than what goes into it.”

“You should talk,” says Myrna, “some of the things that you’ve had in your mouth. Since when are you a spokesman for God.”

“Didn’t you hear?” says Aunt Feigie. “I’m her confidante.”

Finkl’s father, the elder Finkl, who could care less about the knife says, “Ask YOUR rabbi. But be careful,” he says, “because if YOUR rabbi says six days and another subsequently says three, you have to go with the first opinion solicited. No shopping for opinions. The first one you got is binding.”

“Oy, listen to Pa, solicited yet,” says Old Lady Finkl. “That’s why you have to be careful who you ask. Myrna’s rabbi I wouldn’t ask.

Myrna looks huffy. She is forty-eight and unmarried. She is so religious and such a feminist she can’t find a proper husband. Some are feminist enough and not religious. Some are religious enough, but you try to find a religious feminist. All she talks about is shopping and nasty gossip about people and all the little frum things in her life. Did she tear enough toilet paper on Friday afternoon to have enough for the Sabbath, she shouldn’t have to tear. Can she set the electric coffee pot ahead, she shouldn’t have to boil before shul the next morning. She can’t talk about her job because she is the liaison from the National Security council to the CIA, and it’s all classified. She’s still mad because she wanted to say kaddish for her mother every day for a year after her mother died, and she knew there was a minyan at the National Security Council, but it was all men. They wouldn’t let her pray with them. One had said,” What do you want to say kaddish for, a nice girl like you? I’ll say it for you,” but she had taken a vow, and she felt like killing the guy.

The anarcho-syndicalist aunt was appalled that the National Security Council had enough orthodox for a minyan. What if the Iraqis decided to attack on shabbos? Would they refuse to answer the telephone. “We can’t come to the phone right now,” their answering machines would say. “Call back after sundown on Saturday. Have a nice shabbos,” Aunt Feigie often thought that modern technology would finally be the downfall of orthodoxy in religion, but the frummies just took it in their stride. Where once they had to hire a goy to light the fire on the Sabbath, now they had their goddamn electric coffee pots. The women, once shaving their heads and wearing clumsy wigs that looked like wood shavings, now wore sleek wigs from places like the Adora Salon or Marshall Fields, and were more of a temptation than they would have been with their real hair. And the answering machines so that they could obey the stricture against answering the phone (did God actually say that they shalt not answer the phone?) without missing an important message.

“So where’s this knife?” says Mrs. Finkl. “At least she didn’t put it back in the drawer, did she?”

“No, it’s on the back of the sink,” Mr. Finkl says. “You got her trained pretty good in that respect. And she knows enough to not mix the milk dishes and the meat dishes in the dishwasher and wait at least an hour before doing a load of one and then another.”

“Holy shit!” says Aunt Feigie. “You can’t do them together? This is worse than when I was a girl!”

“Feigl, your language,” Old Lady Mandelstamm says mildly. “Your mother would turn in her grave is she heard you.”

“She could probably use the exercise,” Feigie mutters under her breath.

by Donovan Chase

What follows will make no sense.
I intend for this to happen,
And so it will.
I want my poem to be considered deep, so I’ll have it make no sense.
I’ll use random bits of
pretentious nonsense,
To make a point
That doesn’t exist.

I’ll capitalize words for no reason,
Other than to make people think they’re important,
When they’re not.
I use words together that have nothing to do with each other
Like Purple Death,
just to seem morbid and deep,
when it’s not.

I’ll use “vague but disturbing imagery”
Like the idea of someone taking a cat
and putting it in a cheese taco
to make the poem seem to have meaning.

My poem will live forever
When english teachers ask students to interpret it.
To the students, it will seem like stupidity written on paper.
They’ll be right.

I wonder if l can get a grant from the NEA
for a poem that makes no sense.
Why not? It hasn’t stopped them before.

I think I’ll make up words
like “drizzable,” “scurned,” and “plewestry”
Just so people will think they’re deep and meaningful.

I m running out of’room

I’ll make oblique references to g-d
comparing Him to a Snickers bar
Just so people will think i have some deep philosophical point

But I see I don’t have the space to do So.

I’ll have to end my poem here.

Damn.

It made sense after all.

by Sabrina Plum

They’ve got it all wrong.
Hell is not the fabled fire and brimstone
sulfur smelling torture chamber that
the Bible makes it out to be,
Nor is it an eternity in an
empty four walled locked door room with
three inherently dysfunctional occupants as
Sartre philosophizes,
But it is beautifull and peaceful and enticing and it calls and cajoles you and you play in its flowered meadows which flourish under a pale blue sky and you swim and drink from its slowly winding silver streams which feed into moonlit oceans…..
And that’s why it’s Hell . You believe in it.

by Christine McKeever

i hate her

the witch burned beneath my flesh

dissolving into my blood stream

absolving my affections

she is a part of me now forever

screams inside of me

bleeding internally-eternally

she’s seen only the eclipsed spectre of my forgotten wisdoms

she festers

i can never reclaim my reflection

she brings submission and flames

the vanquishing of my smiles

as obscurity triumphs

she is me after all is extracted

smoldering ashes of stale life

leaving me to pick up the withered remains

it’s always someone else’s veracity

crying, crippled in the somber tones of dusk

she’s the only one who cares

her death offers me a new skin

a ghost i cannot endure

with ninety-nine tracks and mystery lacking

inside

by Jen Rubin

Most mornings I awake in the darkness,
With silence surrounding me.
All footsteps are outside my window.
And even in storms,
There is a bright blue star,
I can see through the clouds
When the curtains are drawn.

I awoke that day, though,
To the sound of smothered sobs and slippered steps,
Quietly crawling toward
My bedroom door.
I peered out through
The curtains of my window,
And the star was not there,
In the crystal clear sky.

My mother’s swollen eyes
Appeared in the darkness of my chambers before.
She switched on the light,
She climbed into my bed and curled up,
Under the fluffy cover.
She sobbed into my pillow about her loneliness,
And used my arms
To hold herself up.

by Lauren Numeroff

You stare down at her virgin,
soft, tiny hands,
Untouched by evil,
drugs, and pain.
Yearning for her life, freedom,
Or just $2 to buy ice cream after school.
Her eyes burn your flesh,
eyes too young to know poverty.
You mutter a muted apology,
Ruthless, ashamed.
She turns away,
lying,
she understands,
Mommy, your partner,
who you swore yourself to,
“In sickness and health,
For richer or poorer,”
She reaches into the cookie tin
and her hand emerges with a couple of paper bills,
Those empty paper scraps which run your life.
She brushes the hair out of the eyes
of the child you share,
and shoves the bills into her little jacket pocket.
All the while, giving you this look,
This look that further implies
what a failure you are.
You grab your tattered leather briefcase,
filled with nothing you were educated for,
The only trace of your education lies in those envelopes,
Opened with inept hands,
and stuffed in that briefcase your mom bought you when you graduated.
Your student loans,
Naturally,
Unpaid.

You face the back of a turbaned head,
He turns to you,
and raises an eyebrow as he notices your beat-up Volkswagon outside.
“$17.50 for the gas. Would you like anything else?”
Of course you do.
Of course you don’t.
You open your torn wallet and shell out twenty dollars
To feed your car and your nicotine desiring blood.
You think of your daughter,
And her ice cream.
You pack your Reds and bring one to your lips.
The precious fire lights your drug,
And one lonely tear appears at the corner of your eye.
Inhaling, you let the contaminated blood trickle,
down, down, down.
You bury your face in your hands
Being careful not to singe your lashes with your
Smoke.

by Andy Manoff

Hello, it’s now time to begin
Every time we
give a speech
A large bill is left for you in excess
Japanese is difficult
There are 17 lightbulbs
Somedays it’s sunny
But often there’s nice weather inside
The fate of the puppy is in the picture
Three want to do it
My book is true
Your future…
Number Four storeroom
Let’s get at least 6 presents
Tomorrow there will be more red
Reciprocally hand it over
After the tub
It is a model dog
Yes, in that case
That every next seems to be
If you think you come in contact
With Snow
Eat Eat Eat
How many pears?
Three and now
Let’s divide the ordered food
How many pears?
Probably Probably Probably
Fast color
Temporary color
What kind of bunch
That’s why
nonetheless
You, in general
Hello, it’s now time to begin
Every time we
give a speech
A large bill is left for you in excess
Japanese is difficult

There are 17 lightbulbs

by Lisa Walsh

This night I seek your listening.

The insomnia of my fingertips,

write my words in longing call

for your ears and thoughts.

This night I reach alone for arms to hold mine

and crawl with me into empty corridors of time.

This night I seek your gentle touch

to draw me out of winter’s lonesome frost.

This night I ask shadows to reveal themselves

amidst the fear breeding in the air.

This night I call out to all the homes

of distant souls who want to hear.

This night I chisel away at walls standing over me

and deposit a piece of myself in your world-

and are you ready?

by Benjamin Jacob Blattberg

The thing that still sticks out of my mind most is how incomprehensible the whole thing was. The events were so inconsistent with the reality I knew, that it didn’t quite feel real. It felt like a dream, or actually, it seems like a story I would write.

I had lived in Syosset all my life, and my mom’s car had been broken into twice, and there was some other crimes I know of but can’t quite remember. But if I had ever wanted to see an actual robbery or such being committed, I always figured I’d have to turn on “Cops.” I was wrong.

Coming back from our Tuesday allergy shots, my dad and me, and my upper left arm was just beginning to itch and swell and ache. My father was driving our white limited edition Eagle Premier, graying black hair, where he had hair, and that was only in a horseshoe pattern encircling his head, tied back into a two inch ponytail, beard and moustache the same silvered black, more silver now than black, which covered the front of his face and joined up with the rest of the hair on his head through means of two sideburns. He was wearing his glasses, the ones which become darker when the world becomes brighter, and his deep voice came out of nowhere. Completely interrupted the song I was listening to.

“Do you want some chicken fingers?”

You know, I did. Some nice breaded white meat from Poultry Plus, with their sweet, but not too sweet, and spicy, but not too spicy, barbecue sauce. That sounded good.

“Yeah,” my voice was deep, started changing like five years ago, and I think by the time I was seventeen, which was then, it had stopped. I was sitting comfortably in the passenger side, seat belt on loose, leaning forward and playing with the ten preprogrammed radio stations. FM naturally.

“Let’s go now.”

Red light turned green at the corner of Jericho and South Oyster Bay, and we made a left. WE passed the Health Connection, the health food store where I worked over the summer. I was a stock boy - pure energy - moving, placing, counting, moving, cashiering, moving - heavy boxes, plastic crates of vegetables, vitamins, supplements, health chips like styrofoam, expensive water. They fired me, well actually, they let me go, after like four weeks. But that’s in the past, no hard feelings. I just don’t go in there anymore.

Anyway, we pulled up to the poultry store. I wasn’t too interested in going in, so my dad went in alone, and I stayed outside in the car listening to the radio. X107.1 - alternative rock, metal. Good station, I just found it this summer and now it’s one of my favorites.

Look up, father on line, two in front of him. Bad song comes on, change, 92.7, o.k. song, but look around some more. 92.3, Z100. Good song. But it’s the end and now it’s over. When I was younger I couldn’t find Z100 because I kept putting the tuner to 100 FM, but Z100’s frequency is 100.3. Anyway, song over, need new song. 104.3 - hard metal - o.k. song. Look around some more. 107 again. Hate this song! Switch!

Boom! What? Boom! Like a bass drum, but heavier, deeper, louder, closer. I looked up, catching a glance of my blank, impassive face in the mirror of the sunshade, folded down to keep early Spring sun from burning my beautiful blue-green-gray eyes. The sound was coming from the store and I naturally looked there first. I could see one of the men who had been on line before my father, his arms up, back to the far wall. The cashier was busy taking the money out of the cash register and putting it into a plastic bag. And the other man who was on line was now holding a gun. He wore a ski mask, something which he had just put on, and I couldn’t remember what he looked like. It took me a little while to take all of this information in, and then I realized that i couldn’t see my father.

That was bad. Before I was just curious and watching, but now I was frozen. And i didn’t care for the song that was on the radio.

The robber was out of the store, into a car and speeding out the road in the same time it took me to take off my seat belt. I didn’t notice the plates or the type of car. I was focused on the plate glass window of the store, empty, wondering where my father was, wondering about those gun shots, walking towards the door of the store, still in the middle of falling closed.

I rushed in, like ripping off a Band-Aid I thought it would hurt less if i did it quickly. i didn’t want to tease myself with first my father’s feet, then his legs, etc.

But even trying specifically not to do that, that’s what I did. Like slow motion. First there were his feet. Then his legs, and his left arm wrapt around them, his right hand shielding his head, curled into a little fetal ball, like I once was, breathing, no, crying. And then there were police sirens, and people noticing the holes in the roof, two .35 caliber bullet holes in the plaster/styrofoam ceiling. My father being helped to stand up by some concerned spectator, his face, his pants wet. Old creased face crying like a child, the saltwater tears matting his beard to his head. And all the fear I might have felt, or thought I did, wasn’t fear anymore. Father-protector. The feeling was more like shame, or pity, or loathing.

I don’t talk much to Bruce anymore, and especially not about that day. People tell us, and especially me, how lucky we all are, and especially how lucky I am, that neither of us were hurt, especially that my father was fine, and how we have the whole family together still. I don’t know what he thinks, but I can’t help believing that it would’ve been better had one of us died.

by Alexis Truetle

My mother calls on Wednesdays. Wednesdays because that’s the day she can pencil me in, neatly, across an empty white page of her file-o-fax. When I’m home, we go to lunch on Wednesdays. I always wear something nice and comb my hair, put on the flowery earrings she likes so much. But since I’m 3000 miles away from home, Wednesday afternoon lunches have sort of evolved into complicated phone calls that eerily remind us of lunch dates back at home.

“Hiiii!” she sings into the receiver. My mother has one of those incredibly melodic voices, rich and commanding. My mother wanted to be an Opera singer. I tell her ‘hi’ back, not even bothering to make my voice as lovely as hers. We tried before. It doesn’t work.

“So how is everything?” Everything’s fine.

“Are you having fun?” My mother is convinced everyone on the face of the Earth is having more fun than me. She diagnoses me with depression when she sees me at home, alone, shut off in my room on a Friday night. I don’t think it’s possible for my mother, who reigned as the head cheerleader/ homecoming queen/ valedictorian when she was my age, to understand that being at home on a Friday night, alone is what makes me happy. It must be a hard thing to comprehend in my mother’s head, a Friday night alone. “Are you making friends?” Lots of fun. Lots of friends, Mom.

“I want to hear all about it!” My mother is one of those people who says they want to hear about it and actually means it. I don’t know. What do you want me to tell you, Mom?

“Shit! You’re in New Fucking York! You’ve got to have something exciting to tell me!” My mother has a mouth like a truck driver. It always shocks my friends at first, who then go on to think this is an incredibly cool trait my mother possesses. Like the time in junior high my mother had gotten stuck driving a car load of my 13 year old friends when a nun pulled out in front of my mother’s van, who then took it upon herself to yet out the window, “GOD DAMMIT! WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?” She was a nun! I cringed. My friends laughed the entire car ride. My mother, the confirmed Catholic.

My mother keeps asking me questions. I don’t know what it is, but I’m convinced there is something about the phone, that makes it incredibly easy to tell my mother about my days here. Or maybe it’s not the phone at all. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m 3000 miles away or that it’s been scientifically proven the bad track lighting in this 6×10 dorm room has mind numbing effects. Or maybe there are some things about Wednesdays that make it easier for my mother and I to relate to one another. Either way, I’m suddenly telling my mother more about my life and my plans than I probably care to.

And she listens. And I know she is taking this all in, word for word, storing it like a computer, in that huge incriminating evidence file of her maternal brain, I know she’ll find ways to use against me one of these days.

ItÕs weird because I acknowledge this fact, but I still ignore it. This amazes me, the way that I’m eagerly replying to the same questions my mother asks on a day to day basis that normally are enough to send me into raging fits of annoyance inside my head.

But tonight I am incredibly grateful towards my mother for asking these questions, for replying to everything with such enthusiasm. It’s nice to know, that at least on Wednesdays, she still cares. And for once I enjoy listening to her daily affirmations, gossip, talk about her work. Things I normally wouldn’t care about.

“And oh shit, I locked the keys in my car again today.” My mother has a knack for locking the keys in her car. She’s the kind of person who presses the power lock button when she comes to a stop sign. My mother is the most paranoid person I know.

“You’re not gaining weight are you?” My mother always told me, “Sometimes you have to suffer to be beautiful.” Like the time she taught me how to buy an expensive dress one size too small so that starving yourself to fit into it would seem actually worth it. My mother is a very practical person.

I’m not offended by her questions, I’m used to them by now. My mother with her pear-shaped body. I did not inherit my mother’s small-on-top-big-onbottom figure. I do not resemble my mother with her average height and average weight. She says I take after my father.

I stare at a picture of my family we brought with me, focusing in on my mother’s smiling face while she talks about fat grams and Thighs of Steel work out videos. I wonder why I haven’t before realized how truly beautiful she is. How unfortunate it is for me, both of us probably, that I do not have her pink angelic face and rare green eyes, I think. Nobody has ever accused me of looking like my mother. I suddenly have a need to be very close to her. I get this empty feeling, thinking that if only I could stare into a mirror and recognize my mother’s face I wouldn’t feel so horridly far away from her.

“We made you an appointment.” My mother’s confident voice breaks in again and settles with me even though I have no idea what she’s talking about. My mother is always making me appointments that I somehow seem to always miss. Okay. I say ‘okay’ to my mother’s appointments a lot. ‘Okay’ always pisses her off. She wants me to take appointments as seriously as she does.

We are running out of things to say.

My mother takes it upon herself to change the subject. “I couldn’t wear a sleeveless shirt today. I have this damn bruise on my arm. It looks like shit.” My mother bruises easily. At least physically. I’ve inherited this from her, maybe the only physical trait that has been passed down to me by means of her.

Our phone call is lingering. Both of us trying to hold on to whatever it is about this Wednesday tradition that allows us to relate to one another. It isn’t working. Once, during one of our Wednesday lunches, I asked my mother what she thought about a relationship I was in. She had just looked at me and said, “You’re just trying to salvage what’s left of nothing.” It wasn’t what I’d wanted her to say.

Do you remember that Mom? Do you remember when you told me? I ask her.

She’s quiet for minute. “I don’t think so…” Pause. “You’re making that up. I never said that.” Whatever Mom. Whatever.

My mother gives it one last chance.

“I saw that Chris boy you used to bring to the house at McDonalds with some other girl. Did you know about that?” Yes. I want to tell her. I do. I want to tell her all about my teenage boy problems. I’d like to be 4 years old again, sitting in my mother’s lap, hair twirling around my finger, having her tell me that everything is going to be all right. I want to say I really messed this one up, Mom. He was smart and kind and gentle. He was the one. I want her to tell me it will all work out. I want to tell her. I do.

“To tell you the truth, I’m actually glad you got rid of that one. He seemed like such a loser,” I don’t tell her.

There’s more I should tell her. Important parts I’m leaving out. Partly on purpose, partly because I can’t find the words to say them. But mainly because the novelty of this Wednesday is wearing off.

“So I guess I should let you go. It doesn’t sound like you want to be reminded any more of home. It sounds as if you really do need to get away from here.” Yeah. I guess so Mom. I’m glad I left out the part about missing home. All those years of complaining would seem pretty hypocritical I think.

“I’ll talk to you Wednesday.”

I bite my lip. Twirl a strand of hair around my finger. I’ll be the first to say it I think. I tell myself it would mean so much more to her if I said it first. I think about it, practice saying it in my head before I go through with it. I smile thinking how wonderful it will be.

“I love you.” She beats me to it.

I love you too.

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