The Arty Semite

National Poetry Month: Shabbat and Palm-Sized Watermelons

By Jake Marmer

  • Print
  • Share Share
funis2cool.com

We’re at the end of the National Poetry Month celebration at the Forward. Aside from the flurry of posts on The Arty Semite, we’ve also featured an interview with seven poets. One of the interviewees, Maya Pindyck, who has already made an appearance on the blog last year, is here again, with two poems,”Shabbat” and “This.”

“Shabbat” approaches talmudic rhetoric in a Kafkaesque manner — by playing with the language of laws so abstract and obscure that they may have lost their footing completely. Yet, they are still full of mythic and poetic potential. Behind its dark irony and quirky humor, the poem approaches rather serious notions about the nature of Jewish thought and the philosophy of what the poet calls “hanging by a thread from the mountain.”

The second piece, “This,” is an exploration of prayer, which, like “Shabbat,” loosens the seriousness of the discussion with an absurdly funny food-related image (“a palm-sized watermelon/ plops”), offering the sort of comic relief more reminiscent of comic books than of postmodern verse. Yet, precisely in the delightful surprise of it, is the point of the poem: to break away from the morose sort of prayer that’s bogged down in the “hammering of bricks/ patterned after man’s idea of death.” Here’s to palm-sized watermelons!

Maya Pindyck grew up in Newton, Mass. and Tel Aviv and is the author of the collection “Friend Among Stones” (New Rivers Press, 2009). Her chapbook “Locket, Master” won a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship award in 2006.


Shabbat

Dig the ditch for the dirt
and not for the hole, as does the man
who wishes to skirt the holy laws,
and whose sons, in the same spirit,
butcher open bags of potato chips
so that no bag remains, so that no one
can accuse them of reusing that bag
for some utilitarian purpose.

Cutting off the head of a chicken
is another story. You think you can
cut off a chicken’s head for its beak
and the chicken won’t die? The rabbis
have decided that no such intention
can be true, unless the Jew in question
is really stupid. Such are the laws
hanging by a thread from the mountain.


This

Right after the sun
flares my eyelids with prayer,

I hear the hammering of bricks
patterned after man’s idea of death—

that, now that, now that—

Thankfully,
a palm-sized watermelon
plops to the ground.

Not that, but this, just once—


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Poetry, National Poetry Month, Maya Pindyck, Jake Marmer

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.