Statement on a Birthplace

Born on farmland

but furthest from a farmer.

Born by a humble woman bearing twins

in a hospital since demolished.

Born in a town no one knows the meaning

of, a town by the name of Voorhees.

Sounds Scandinavian

makes sense

since the Swedes

were the first Europeans to colonize

where I was raised.

Western New Jersey

in West Jersey Hospital

a now archaic demonym

West Jersyian, a term once used

to denote Quaker lands

along the dark Delaware River

where Norsemen killed and conquered

Lenape until the British asserted their power.

A people pillaged by Norsemen then Englishmen.

My Irish ancestors can empathize

and how the hell does one acquire

the rights to ransack a history?

And I, a descendant of death

feel the descent from a green rock

unto the New World as if a curse

as Europe’s outcast thrust upon

a foreign bosom poisonous

being between both continents

as if lost betwixt breasts unbound

as I know who raped my ancestors

but don’t know my ancestors.

I, born on foreign farmland

don’t feel home anywhere

which is why I am attached to nowhere.

Unless the Earth’s Coerced

I know not any example of empire in nature.

No mountain, even, which would force its dominion

over the entire world. No ocean

which would consume all land

unless the Earth’s coerced by mankind.

April Poetry Reading

april 3

Deaf Child at Play

There’s this simple yellow street sign planted into cement

that’s diamond shaped and decades old. The paint’s chipped

and post rusted. It states: DEAF CHILD AT PLAY.

There’s a ghost of a child on this block

on Westfield Avenue in Camden. A street lined

with abandoned businesses and boarded up houses.

There’s the phantom toddler who plays with a ball

by itself in the center of the street.

Cars pass by, the drivers unaware that down the hill

there’s the vacant schoolyard in a neighborhood

where so many dreams have died along with their bearers

who will never be recorded, sufferings annihilated by time.

There’s the pain separated from the body

and minds floating through space.

The sign is still there in spite of the deaf child being a dead child.

There it is, alone at play for eternity on the border of reality.

An ambiguous figure. A toddler with a long blouse and bowl cut.

There is the figure entrenched in distance.

The city knows the sign must still stand to warn motorists

not to kill the invisible child. The child can’t hear even if they’re ethereal.

There is the pulse of the street and the ability to bear witness

to every personal tragedy regardless of how major or minor.

Four corners abandoned. The center filled with traffic.

There is the traffic of brain matter released as energy

into a place anyone can see, but cannot comprehend.

To a space no ship can reach. To a time where no machine can travel.

There is the street that can be stood on, but not understood.

At least not until you’re dead yourself

then that deaf child will be visible.

There is where the living will be phantoms

and the city that looks dead in life will resurrect

from the thoughts of a dead deaf child at play.

There you will know why the dreams of the dead still touch the living

as if those that are alive are stiff bodies in a morgue.

There is the reason why the city must warn the living not to harm the dead.

Ancestry Prose Poem

I am a Russian Jew. I uncovered the truth and now the truth knows not what to do with me. A human wrestling with identity. For two generations my family never knew. I am a Russian Jew. At least an eighth of me, and I’m only alive due to secrecy. Relatively prosperous in Philadelphia a century after Wolf Cherashefsky and Minnie Novakolsky escaped pogroms in an unforgiving Empire. Two betrothed teenagers fleeing across the Atlantic Ocean on one last leg of a millennia of diaspora. From the Ukraine to Arkhangelsk to Liverpool to New York to Philadelphia to flee home to find a home to escape violence to encounter peace. I am a Russian Jew. According to the Federal Census a descendant of cabinet makers who spoke Yiddish in the household. Great grandson of refugees who swore an oath disavowing the Czar and pledging allegiance to America. Another Empire in all but name. And yet Wolf and Minnie survived here. That is why I’m alive. I am a Russian Jew.