A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

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"12th Century Jewish Text Advises" by Emmy Roday

12th Century Jewish Text Advises



A mourner mustn’t wear sandals when carrying

the coffin of a loved one, lest the strap snaps

and impedes the performance. I reimagine

the funeral in late November, hesitating

at the shoe rack in the front hall, reaching

for flip flops instead of boots. I am a teenager

but six feet tall, unhoused in my own body.

Carrying the coffin on my shoulder, I crunch

leaves under my flip flops and count the steps.

In grief, a fall is expected—by phone call,

by clutching a distant relative, or by the quiet,

jutting root of a nearby tree as we, the procession,

walk on toward the cliff.




A mourner is forbidden to cut their hair

in the first thirty days. Sitting in the back, I ask:


But what if you are in the midst of getting a haircut

when you receive the news your father has died?


What then?


Hold on longer to your life of seconds before.

Soon you start seeing pairs everywhere.


Two robins landing on your electrical line,

facing each other, then teetering closer and closer


to the edge. The law states: complete the haircut.


It all becomes a symbol eventually. You looking

back at you in the mirror that day.


One side of your head shaven and the other

still here.




You, mourner, are obligated to overturn your bed


       for all seven days. Even if you have


ten beds in ten homes, you must overturn


       them all. The day after


       our greatest loss, Mom talked of moving my bed.


So we did. Illiterate in ancient ritual,


               still we pivoted


       and pivoted the mattress until my younger self


could orient a new life. I’d lay and watch tree shadows


       grow on the walls, imagining


               a night before and before.


In another home, in another bed, I can hear


               the leaves land in another November,


       quiet, but open to rest.

Emmy Roday

Emmy Roday is a poet and creative writing instructor from New Haven, Connecticut. She received her BA in Arabic, English, and creative writing from Kenyon College and worked as an editorial assistant for The Kenyon Review. She currently runs adult poetry workshops for Write Haus and serves as their poetry editor. You can find her poems in DUST Poetry Magazine and Symposeum Magazine, among others.



Emmy Roday