Is this their heartbeat or ours?



Is a river

still a lifesource

if the life there

is disregarded?


The quality of

its content only important

if the stream ends at

a white mouth?


And preservation,

only necessary,

if it ends up in a museum?


Maybe water isn’t an issue

if yours is clean

just how a city doesn’t exist

if you don’t live there

and all lives only matter

when yours isn’t the topic

of conversation




have you ever held your breath

through passing smoke

only to find that three years have gone by

and the air has yet to clear



To have to choose

between dehydration or


says more about a country

than an anthem or

a flag

ever could


the lengths

others have taken

to keep history alive

are almost as remarkable

as our attempts to forget it





was never
Donald to us
was always pappy
or puppy
always grandpa
never a name
loved angels and pranks and the little wooden boxes
with painted bugs on the inside
that danced when you opened it
Mom played Luther Vandross in the car
for weeks after he died
sat in the passenger seat with her feet up
and wiped the tears from her face
my brother and I in the back,
learning all the words to her grief
I didn’t get it then
sat at the shiva unknowingly
went to the funeral without worry
didn’t cry at all
how do you explain permanance to a kid who knows only that the seasons change regardless of how harsh the winter is?
or that the leaves will always grow back in the Spring?
or that a mistake is just a mistake?
or that life goes on even if the ice cream falls on the ground?
-there’s always a promise of redemption.
if I had known how to write more eloquently then
I’d have written God a letter asking for more time
for everyone who cried at his funeral
for my Nana
who wasn’t ready to be a widow
who still isn’t
for my mother
who loved her father identical
to how I love mine
and me, eight years too young to understand
that loss means you don’t get something back
if a skeptic tells you she believes in heaven will you believe it too?
what if she saw him in a dream once at eighteen?
ten years past a clear memory and he pulled her from a threat to safety?
how strange would it be to be reminded without a reminder?
to be reunited without a yearning for it?
a moment that everyone has now forgotten but I remember is when
Alissa found the outline of an angel stamped into a penny wearing the year of her birth
every time a coincidence comes out of my mouth
I can’t help but want to call it something else
I don’t believe in ghosts but I see his eyes
whenever I ask someone if they love me
like the way he asked daily, voice shrinking to invite laughter
mine ringing, as I ran to another room
to avoid an answer
shy then, I am now anything but.
three days from a new age and wondering
if he’d recognize me today
my voice, more loud than soft
and me,
never just a name


I’ve been looking through the yard
for a four leaf clover
but even if I found one
I wouldn’t know what to wish for
because with april comes the yellow roses along the fence
the hibiscus have started forming
there were less in November
when we met against a background of bare trees
when I hadn’t yet let my guard down
and we bloomed prematurely
before the heat got to us
before the chill stopped calming
we were all the nature
that my clumsy hands never got the chance to ruin
I planted my future in your palms
waiting to watch the fruit form from your fingertips
we plucked oranges before they fell
from the branches I couldn’t reach
with the juice dripping from your teeth,
I found spring in our winter together
summer every time you looked at me
we built a sun even in its absence
painted stars in a quiet sky
this is how we loved
enough to keep the temperature still
enough to keep the unknowingness calm
this is how we still do
attempting to hold the promises we made
attempting to keep steady
now the peaches have grown into their soft skin
just as we have
we pull one from a branch to split into pieces,
the juice slipping from our mouths as we eat them
it’s easy to forget how sweet the sweetness is when you’re used to it
but I havent forgotten
what a privilege it is
to have tastebuds
and there’s a reason
I still keep you on my tongue after
all this time


admiration for the mundane:
I like the way your toothbrush
lays next to mine
I like knocking over your face wash
every time I open the cabinet
above my sink, I like
that you left your face wash
at my house on purpose
so that you never have an excuse
to not spend the night
I like that you leave
your belongings at my house
on purpose
It’s a good reminder
that you’re coming back
even though I already know
you’re going to anyway
I like having inanimate objects
to remind me now and then
so that just in case you
wake up feeling differently one day
you’ll still have a reason
to return
When I asked if
I could keep the sock
you left on my dresser
I was only kidding
I asked because I wanted
you to notice that I
keep parts of you
scattered around my room
just because
I miss you easily
I guess
Your alarm gives me
a headache
but I don’t mind it
the way I don’t mind
finding your hair on
my pillowcase or on
my face
the way I don’t mind
finding you on my pillowcase
or too close to my side of the bed
when we sleep
I don’t care that one
of your best skills
is hitting the snooze button
on repeat
my only regret is how
little we utilize the record player
and the fact that I was too
tired to kiss you
this morning
I am grateful for the day
your toothbrush
found a home in my bathroom
and also for the day
you decided
to find one in
In learning about the Holocaust for the millionth time:
I wonder if this ever becomes
a worn topic to some
because for me
it always feels
too new
I count the decades from
where we are today and
they always feel
too close
for comfort
maybe it’s because
I know enough bad jokes
about myself
to silence an entire synagogue
maybe it’s because
I learned how to make
a mockery of my people
before I knew why
there were so few left
this was before I was
old enough to understand what
it meant to be
a dying breed
and the town I lived in
felt too much shtetl
to understand that
the hatred we laughed about
wasn’t a joke to
the rest of the world
and us,
just enough Ashkenaz
to keep the blood still
I imagine a scene:
a room crowded by
too many bodies
and wonder how any God
could pass by without
how he would be
unable to hear
that many last breaths
being taken at once
I still wonder the same.
In learning about the Holocaust for the millionth time:
I’ve written this poem a
million times
but it never seems
I picture six million
and wonder how many of them
would have had my name
I picture six million
and wonder if we’ll ever learn
from our mistakes
and somewhere
in a classroom
a kid is rolling his eyes
at a story he thinks he’s heard
too much of
and somewhere still
we are saying things
like never again
knowing too well that
repetition has always been
one of history’s greatest


at my 16th year check-up
my doctor tells my mother and I that I am slightly over weight
she says so just
“as a warning”
5’2, 130 pounds
and on the way home I imagine
all the ways I can shrink into myself
fast forward years later and
I am still picturing the same things
only I’ve gotten better at
taking action
I used to wonder what
constituted health
learned quickly that people like
to decide what it means
with their eyes first
think a quantity
is a fair definition
of worth
as if effort only matters
if it’s noticeable
as if success only counts
if you fit differently
into clothes that used to be too small
I know how to close my eyes
when stepping on a scale in
an unfamiliar place
and even if I don’t own myself
I still know that this world has
a way of making
human into number
an equation for health today
for a woman like me
seems to be
a green smoothie plus a stomach half empty
flattened gut and a bag of tea to subtract
the contents left within
it’s never made much sense to me
that healthy is supposed to feel
like going to bed hungry
that you are supposed to want
to be equivalent to nothing
and every year on my birthday
I am 16 again
still trying to make anything
but a home out of my body
the only comfort coming from
the knowledge that it isn’t just me
who holds their breath at the sight
of a measurement
if you tell a little girl she is
beautiful, it wont stay
in her memory very long
but tell her she is fat and
she will be able to recall
every detail from that moment
with clarity


A guide to dissecting your own body:
//watch girls eat donuts
wish it was you,
wish you had the ability to,
wish you didn’t care so
much, wish you didn’t own so
many god damn mirrors
//wonder when this started happening
wonder how your indifference molded into
obsession, remember that addiction
can be more than substance
remember that it’s in the family
//remember there was a time when a nutrition label wasn’t a stop sign
remember there was a time when you ate without counting
remember that today’s happiness isn’t going to be tomorrow’s
remember that you look fucking fine as is
remember that there are people hungry
remember that you are hungry for something that cannot satisfy
//dissect every piece of food that meets your tongue
dissect every inch of skin that looks misplaced
feel as if every inch is misplaced
//stare at yourself too long in the morning
look at your reflection when he kisses you
pretend you see what he sees when he does
your friends will stop asking
if you want to go out to dinner
//remember that there is a time in
every girl’s life
when she is unafraid of taking up
too much space
remember that it’s a time
you can no longer remember
//your mother will call you thin
the next time you come home and
you will wish you had eyes like hers


Smile more
keep your happiness elusive
show it to the world only when prompted
wear your heart on your sleeve
make sure it doesn’t bleed openly
don’t be too sensitive or weak
don’t find disgust in violence
don’t cringe at gore
don’t talk about your period
don’t talk about yourself
don’t talk
-you’re perfect as is
but try this tea
who needs food anyway
waist trainer
modern day corset
suffocate your organs into a
cast until they forget what they exist to do and
your body can’t remember why
it ever wanted to be anything but
-be confident
get your bikini body
get summer ready
grow your ass
shrink everything else
how dare you find pride in your skin,
in the excess of it
how dare you face the sun without
attempting to cower in it’s presence
-be modest like
you weren’t born naked
be mother like
you are only good for your uterus
be more than your womanhood
don’t be a feminist
be one of the men but
don’t demand equality
ask politely and
you still wont get it
-hold your own opinions
not too tightly
strong beliefs make you crazy
any belief makes you crazy
crazy if you disagree
crazy if you fight back
don’t be a pushover
-laugh out
grow in
keep to yourself
speak up
don’t say too much
don’t let the world see your teeth bent
be anything but
believe and you can
be anything that isn’t
what you are already