Friday, December 25, 2009


This week I am experimenting with the Japanese form of Tanka, a 31-syllable form that is one of Japan's most popular. Traditionally, it is used to evoke heartbreak and completion or ending. I thought that it was the most appropriate form with which to tackle this week's parshah and the heartbreaking and almost off-putting reunion of Jacob and Joseph. Shabbat Shalom!

Chariot harnessed,
at my feet, my dead child weeps,
sullies the dry sand.
He is a whimpering neck,
A parched cow tasting rain.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


In this week's installment, which is being posted a bit behind schedule, I am experimenting with a common beat form known as a bop. The gist of the form is that one has three stanzas, the first and third containing six lines and the second containing eight. Much like a sonnet, haiku or tanka, each stanza busies itself with its own purpose. The first stanza introduces a question or problem, the second intensifies that problem or question, and the third seeks some sort of resolution.

In a hypertextual move, I decided to quote the famous Gemara in Berachot 55b as my first line. Lately I have been thinking a lot about the idea that you are only what you think and that when you go to olam haba you only really take with you that which you have learned, done, or thought. I think the sense of the Gemara is that a dream has no ontological meaning in or of itself, rather it is up to the interpreter to shed light on its meaning based on his or her perspective. That having been said, if the person who analyzes a dream is the dreamer, it may be impossible to rightfully understand what is going on in the dream. Our perspective is warped, influenced by the emotions which the dream may have evoked, our preconceived and often erroneous idea of self, etc. My idea in this poem was to use a jazz poetic form to convey the topsy-turvy, non sequitur sense of most dreams and using Pharoah's dream which Yosef interprets as an example of that.

I also quote the Gemara in the eighth perek of Yoma, which I have been learning at yeshiva this year, a hasidic (Ba'al Tanya) on dream as irrational and hence an illegitimate form of communication, a symbol of exile if you will, and a few other goodies from the canon. Please let me know your thoughts. Va-Yiggash should follow tomorrow if I work out the kinks sufficiently.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Winter Lights!

Dreams Follow after the Mouth

“All dreams follow after the mouth”
and sprout like foamy silt,
bubbles swelling to a constant pop
Like seven cows that burst through the Nile,
Robust, ripe as sex, blushing the
Pudic cheeks of the moon.

Exile is the ultimate dream.
Hardly gaunt like a plague,
Stumbling from rat to rat,
Flea to flea,
But the fish we remember,
Boneless, bountiful
The poison netting
Of a flowing trap.

“All dreams follow after the mouth,”
And even after two years,
This is but reed grass, beetle dung,
Seven years of plenty
Swallowed by the dead.

Pharoah awoke

Friday, December 11, 2009


For this week's parashah about Joseph and his brothers, I am using the form of the villanelle. This is an American adaptation of a traditional French form repeating certain key lines at specific times. The most famous example would probably be that of Dylan Thomas' "Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night." I look forward to your comments, thoughts, and submissions to the blog. Shabbat Shalom!

Eleven Bowed Stars

Look at the dreamer come forth from afar,
He floats like a phantom burning to fly
to waning moons and eleven bowed stars.

Stripped of his colors, drowned in black tar,
this best loved of boys heard the silent sky.
Look at the dreamer come forth from afar.

Dangling from lost limbs, vengeful like shards
his vinegar skin creaks an arid cry
to waning moons and eleven bowed stars.

Blossoms explode on three branches per scar
and cluster 'round towers of iv'ry lies.
Look at the dreamer come forth from afar.

Red grapes between fingers, skin ripped to shards
and wine spurts out scarlet for desert sighs
to waning moons and eleven bowed stars.

Who will interpret this melting of scars,
this welling of signals, these immortal ties?
Look at the dreamer come forth from afar
to waning moons and eleven bowed stars.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Va-Yishlach (The Meeting)

This week's contribution represents my experimentation with the American form known as a cinquain. Although normally this form consists of five lines with 2-4-6-8-2 syllables per line respectively, I have taken liberties with the exact form in "the Meeting," (version 1), adapting the form to reflect what I believe to be the simbiotic mythological relationship between Jacob, who becomes Israel, and his estranged, "wild" brother Esav. The second poem is a more traditional cinquain. Please let me know your thoughts and I encourage you to attempt one of your own.

Version 1:

One brother flees,
runs to the hairy hoard
to grasp the heel to which he clung
before they were estranged.
After wrestling angels

Version 2:

Scarred beneath the Thigh
This scar
beneath your thigh--
a sign to future sons.
I bless to fix your broken name--
a song.