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BJ Community Art and Poetry

Did you know that the Beth Jacob Community is filled with wonderful poets and artists?  Enjoy their contributions below and email programming@bethjacobvt.org if you would like to share your work on this page.

Jonah and the Whale, a video of an illustrated Crankie created by Ruth Coppersmith with narration from Paul Markowitz for Yom Kippur 5781.

Chai by Andrea Gould
            For Bob

Grandpa, an ardent critic of
the recovered memory movement,
recently confided to the gathered progeny
that on their wedding day, 64 years ago,
Grandma had an 18-inch waist.
Heads nodded reverently around
the table, each of us secretly planning
to go home and measure something.
I discovered that my 22-pound Tibetan Terrier
also has an 18-inch waist.

Grandma’s other numbers were staggering:
she delivered 550 quarts of soup
to neighbors in need, taught
837 first graders to read, shepherded
54 people through Hospice, packed
11,000 lunches for family members
and, in her garden, once grew
a tomato 18-inches around.

How to Make Borscht by Andrea Gould
In memory of my father

Weep as you chop more onions 
than you think you need, 
snip bunches of feathery dill,
peel passels of beets
until your fingers are red
as rubies. Listen.  
When the soup cries out
for more beets, 
more onions,
another bunch of dill, 
give it what it wants.
When it’s time, 
toss your memories
into the soup pot,
let them simmer all day.
Admire the color,
inhale the shtetl.

Heroines  by Andrea Gould

When Miquette,
usually a quiet dog,
barked an urgent warning
in the middle of that Paris night,
Aunt Jeannette, silent as a mime,
folded her husband
Into a wooden box.

Only Miquette could hear 
his heart pounding
when the Nazis arrived,
smelling of cigarettes and death.
Not finding Uncle Mendel,
they marched out, heavy boots
grinding muddy outlines
into the carpet.

Crumpled and contorted,
my uncle emerged
from his temporary coffin,
finding his wife collapsed on the floor,
her mind shattered
into thousands of shards,
like a mirror broken beyond repair.

My Grandfather Couldn’t Live Without My Grandmother, Though He Tried  by Charles Barasch

My grandfather must have thought
he’d left his brand-new 
’59 Oldsmobile
in neutral when it began rolling downhill
in Bayonne, New Jersey.
A solid, strong man, he ran 
in front of the car, pushed 
against it, arms stretched forward, 
palms up, like Superman 
commanding a criminal to stop.

He’d left the car in drive, 
and his death filled me 
with awe and fear, like the snap
of his braided World War I 
cavalry whip, crisp as the spit-shine 
on his shoes.  He was a major, 
the first Reform Jewish chaplain 
in the Army, who once placed 
his unloaded service revolver 
in my bawling father’s duffel bag 
as he saw him off to summer camp.

But his three marriages 
to my grandmother awed me most.  
Over forty years they divorced 
and remarried, then did it again 
before they split up for good
when he was 71, 
two months before he was run over.

The Little Boy by Charles Barasch

When my father was a little boy 
his grandmother ran the household.  
The key to the pantry jangled
on the keyring hanging from her apron. 
There was no snacking.  
His mother mostly lay in bed, 
at times recovering from 
electro-shock treatment, at times
reading about Joan Crawford 
or Greta Garbo in a movie magazine.

The day before my father died
he threw his head from side to side
like a horse refusing a bridle,
avoiding the macaroni and cheese 
 I brought to his lips
on a spoon, so I said 
“Let’s try the applesauce,” 
but he clenched his mouth shut,
opening it just to say,
“I want my mother.”

Stay Home, Stay Safe by Nancy Gore


And we begin to smell as we go longer between baths


we miss the beat
of routines


we lose connection
to distractions


And we ache
for all that is breaking


loved ones
fixed stubbornly in our hearts
and out of reach


And here is my grief
In my throat
and in my chest
and it melts my face
from forehead down


And there are my children
One
two
and three
So far away
and here are my tears


Stripped of excuses bald-faced anxiety also lodged in my throat
but this one grips my jaw and clenches my teeth as my body defends against accumulating harm.


Let us now count to 4


as we inhale


and hold our breath


And count again


as we exhale


Now.


Let us breathe.

 

Let’s Hope by Nicola Morris

There’s a dribble of justice
at the traffic court where
the slim mother pleads
she was frazzled, she rushed 
her child to the Dr. at seventy three
miles an hour in a fifty mile zone
when Officer Pickle spotted her 
speeding car, gave chase,  a hunter
filling his quota.

We never find out if her child 
got to the doctor’s in time. 

The mother’s husband
 enraged, yells “you should 
 be ashamed of yourself” at
the court before he’s thrown out.  

I agree though I worried about her
thin shoulders, her thin voice
his sturdy body when he 
 stepped forward to take a place
beside her at the Defendant Table
 until the bailiff told him “step back,
 sit down.”  We could tell, us defendants 
and supporters in the pews
he didn’t like to be told what to do. 

The odds aren’t great for the 
young mother who had to pay
sixty dollars in  court costs on top
of her fine.  Guilty.

Hidden behind the car dealership
Officer Pickle clocked my beloved 
singing her way
down the road, learning 
the Aramaic blessing
for after meals and for peace
for all nations.  Distracted. 
Doing fifty six in a forty mile
an hour zone.

My beloved pleaded hearing loss
so didn’t have to pay court costs
then pleaded she should pay 
a reduced fine because of sixty years
of driving with no violations. 
She didn’t mention the urgency
of learning the Aramaic blessing
the joy of singing into the flow of traffic.

My beloved argued she wasn’t distracted
from driving, just the speed limit change. 
The verdict from the judge 
was to reduce the fine
by eighteen dollars, chai, life. 

Let’s hope all us worried
people seated on the court pews  
live long lives not intimidated 
by bailiffs and sheriffs and 
state troopers and judges and
angry husbands and presidents.

Let’s hope we sing
blessings after meals
work for peace, sing
in our cars.  Bless the people
who come with us to court. 
Bless the angry husband and 
the harried judge, the young troopers
hitching the guns on their hips and yes
bless diligent Officer Pickle
with a new beat far away from us.  

 

Poem by Anni Sawyer, April 2020

If women had been scribes 
how different these stories would appear 
Perhaps there would be songs of joy 
 at the birth of daughters 
 wails of pain and pleasure from the tents of men
 Protests against enslavement
 rendered in poetry straight from the womb 
 declarations of love
 for mothers and sisters 
Would we hear the lament of Dinah? 
Would we know the account of Zipporah
 as she stood by the holy mountain? 
 Would we know the worries
 of those nursing babies 
 as they walked through the parted sea? 
  Would there be exautations to HER glory?
 Would there be less fear 
  and more amazement? 

  When I was a child in temple 
  my mother and sister and I 
  were told to stay in our place 
  while the men 
  worshipped, read and took all honors 
   Reading the book in Hebrew school 
  it became clear to me why this was 
   I asked the teacher
    He became angry 
   I asked my mother 
   She could not answer 
   Later when she came to Vermont 
    she told me excitedly
   how she had joined a temple 
    which had a female rabbi 
    I wish she could have lived
     to see her daughters stand and read 
    from the Torah 
     even open the ark! 
    How she would have smiled 

    Some say parts of the bible 
    were written by women 
    maybe smuggled in 
    by willing male accomplices 
    Perhaps some of the words 
    were changed...
    Imagine how different 
    this world would be 
    if She were known 

Our Mother the earth Is grieving  by Phyllis Rachel Larrabee from her book Usagi Poems of Changing Seasons

Our Mother the earth is grieving 
Her tears are the rain
Melting the ice 
The breast of her daughters which feed desire 
Love and milk for her children are wounded.
We can be so ill and still love the sirens of technology 
Which do not need to be our enemy 
But....
The fossil fuels whipping earth and air and 
The earth so wounded....
Yet every spring so far 
The living earth 
Even in her hospice 
Rises to feed us 
To delight us 
The rivers-where do they get their song?
Racing past our grief 
And the flowers, how they rise up and open 
And we hear the cries of newborn lambs 
And our own 
And wonder to see the innocent youth rise up to save 
          this mother 


A Winter Wait  by Phyllis Rachel Larrabee

Were the trees awake all night 
and yet no dark pools showed in their eyes 
and look 
high in a young maple a hefty nest 
waits 
patiently 
a Winter wait 
a long wait 
for love 
to fill 
 
 

 

Wed, October 28 2020 10 Cheshvan 5781