A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

Back to Issue Five


Two Poems by Deborah Gorlin

Days of the Dead

“Life in Newark was sweet until the riots.”

To visit the dead safely

in Newark during the high

holidays the city advises Jews

to come on a day the police

choose, when they will

guard those wanting to pay

their respects. Fast by

the parkway, viewed from

the car, the cemeteries, long

in disuse, appear unkempt,

congested with gravestones,

like the hurly burly traffic

beside them, some fallen,

others cracked, stripped

of their bronze plaques

sold for scrap, or defaced

by hot pink spray paint. A writer

described, among many details,

a torn-up portrait medallion,

bereft of everything recognizable,

except for the man’s torso in suit and tie.

Grounds littered underfoot,

with cigarette butts, fast food,

gum wrappers, condoms,

discarded needles, dog shit. No

swastikas yet, but just wait. From

nearby, in the suburban hills, promised

land for the exodus after the riots

in ‘67, or afar in Westchester or Boca,

families of the deceased do little more

than lament the neglect. I’m one

of them. Never been there, I search

Find-A-Grave on the internet to locate

my grandparents and when I do,

their stones pictured in color,

somewhere there on the jumbled

premises, look okay to me.


I cannot believe any of these dead

rest in peace, not for our lack

of respect, custodial care,

or these unfortunate call-them

desecrations. These dead are

too good for that. I look at it

differently. With no lives to lose,

buried under for so long, by now

they’ve learned about death

in this place. Their monuments

wreak their own havoc, wilding,

as beasts of rock whose hooves

pull out of the resistant ground,

stampede crookedly, stand in

solidarity with their neighbors

who live on the same blocks,

outside the wrought gates,

and who yet again must take

to the streets, living what it

means to be left behind.

Dressing Torah

Torah's look harks back

to the blue woolen tunic,


to the considerable bling of filigreed

breast plate, silver finials, and crown,


the annunciatory bells that high priests of yore

wore at the altar. So tell me,


how the Torah is not an idol or a fetish,

a juggernaut disguised as a book.


Flayed hide scraped clean,

stretched taut, then soaked in lime,


tweezed of every hair, the parchment

once belonged to a real kid, a calf, inked on


no less! Grubby fingers banned, pointers to keep

our place. Koshered, we've come too far. I want


the ancient sacrifices back, nothing cloven, of course.

But undo the sash, slit open the bellied book


that we can touch like our ancient ancestors,

whose blood-tipped fingers


knew their way around the organic animal,

its meat like these scrolled pages, tissues packed


thick with intricate mysterious codes;

and who can recall earlier its eyes


widened like their own, fearful, trembling

with life unaccountably given, then sacrificed.


With the red coals of their breath, voices rise as one,

devotion like smoke, waft the words heavenward, a divine aroma


pleasing to God's nostrils, to their own ravenous hungers.

Deborah Gorlin

Deborah Gorlin is the author of two books of poems, Bodily Course, winner of the White Pine Poetry Press Prize and Life of the Garment (Bauhan Publishing), winner of the 2014 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize. Her forthcoming book of poems, Open Fire, will be published in the spring of 2023. Her work has been published in a wide range of journals including Poetry, American Poetry Review, Bomb, New England Review, and Best Spiritual Writing 2000. Recent poems appear in Plume, On the Seawall, Chicago Quarterly, Trampoline, The Ekphrastic Review, Mass Poetry, The Hard Work of Hope, and are forthcoming in SWWIM and Canary. Emeritus co-director of the Writing Program at Hampshire College, she served for many years as a poetry editor at The Massachusetts Review.



Deborah Gorlin