This poem was written by Caitlin Wolper in a 12-Month Poetry Collection Generator taught by Angel Nafis
Synonyms include: outlive; outlast; persist in difficult circumstances.
I say I don’t want to write a “Jewish” book & I don’t want to be a “Jewish Poet” and what am I afraid of?
Sheitel-wearing woman who’d swear I’m not her kind
Men who move away on airplanes
The star I wear only sometimes
The ritual bath I’m barred from
Security guards at the synagogue
Paying to pray at the synagogue
Surviving attacks on the synagogue
I stand behind the prison of my ribcage, clutch bones:
can I use “survive” when my family, both sides, crested in from pogroms and not on the waves of Hitler’s hand, when my great-grandfather was a fruit-seller but my generation grew in the suburbs?
Thanking our stars? It’s a joke. Wry, because our stars never did us much good. Painted violence, needled pain. Thanks, stars. (Think of this sentiment the way Seinfeld would say it—
“What’s the deaaaaaal with thanking your stars? From what I hear, stars were never suuuuuper lucky for the Jews.” Prolonged shrug, canned laughs.)
Survive: keep your head down on the subway; pick at cracked skin; buy something pretty; find the body that fits yours; find a body who fits yours; find a distraction; fake a hobby; keep your head down on the street; pick something to look toward; pick people to look toward; figure out how to make love tangible and then let your loved ones touch it; pay rent and brush your teeth; wake up and wake up and wake up and wake up
Synonyms include: remain alive; cling to life; pull through get through; hold on; hold out; endure; remain; go on linger; exist be extant be
one night, after,
I mentioned Hebrew school. He turned, naked surprise: “You’re the first Jew I’ve ever met.”
Still, I stayed the night. After, morning —
remember the yellow bruise?
This poem was previously published in the anthology Strange Fire: Jewish Voices from the Pandemic.
Caitlin Wolper is a poet and journalist. Her work has been featured in Hypertrophic Lit, Ghost City Review, Longleaf Review, Hooligan, and more; her bylines include the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Teen Vogue. She uses all caps or all lowercase on Twitter @CaitlinWolper.