September 20, 2021 · 6:34 am
by Arlene Geller (Yardley, PA)
none of Solomon’s wisdom was imparted
when my father forced religion on me
like a too-tight outfit
after my grandmother died
before this loss, he was unobservant
holidays spent only over food
overnight, he became a Conservative Jew
and a faithful synagogue member
my Jewishness had been a protective cloak
I donned at my discretion
now his sudden threats and punishments
plunged me into the realm of Gehinnom
coerced to go to synagogue
I dressed in my resentment
endured the hard pew
the incomprehensible ancient language
people shuckling and dipping
like wind-up toys in synchronicity
like the flames of candles
and I ignited
Arlene Geller has been fascinated with words from a young age. She has parlayed this passion into a successful career as a writer, editor, wordcrafter, poet and lyricist. Her pieces have been published in newspapers, journals and magazines, as well as sung by choirs in commissioned works. If you’d like to learn more about her work, visit her website: arlenegeller.com
Filed under American Jewry, Family history, Jewish, Jewish identity, Jewish writing, Judaism, poetry
Tagged as ancient language, anger, daughters and fathers, Gehinnom, grandmother's death, Jewishness, resentment
September 3, 2012 · 10:18 am
by Janet Ruth Falon (Elkins Park, PA)
I’m mad at you, God,
You tricked me into thinking life is fair
And that if I did good things,
I’d get what I deserved
(which wasn’t so extraordinary, after all,
just the basic stuff like everyone else).
But you screwed me, God,
Holding back from me, then snatching away when I thought it was mine.
And now you expect me to take the crumbs from my pocket and toss them,
my misdeeds and regrets,
into flowing waters? I won’t.
I don’t have what to give.
Loss after loss has diminished me
And I’m tired and small;
I need to hang on to what little I have.
Of course I’ve made mistakes –
But it’s your turn, God, this year,
And commit to making better.
You owe me, God, big time.
Yes, I’m angry.
I should have gone swimming today
Rather than to shul
Where I feel your big daddy hand
Holding me up when I give in,
And give up the fight
flat on my back,
trusting you won’t let me down, or drown.
But I didn’t, God. Silly me.
I thought I’d visit you and try again.
(I hope you know that the fact I’m there
Means I haven’t given up, not totally,
So here’s what I want, today;
I want this instead of Tashlikh:
I want you to make it rain.
I want you to take the waters that you’ve sucked up during this long, scorched, yellow summer
And pour them down on me.
I’m parched, God. I could be dying.
I want you to rain down the waters
that might have been the stream I’d Tashlikh into
And make it flow
Abundant and life-bearing.
I want you to write little fortune-cookie messages —
Apologizing to me,
Forecasting only good things —
And have them wash up onto the shore
Where I can collect them and paste them
Into my journal.
On this day when other people are discarding pieces of themselves
I want the holes in me filled.
Janet Ruth Falon, the author of The Jewish Journaling Book (Jewish Lights, 2004), teaches a variety of writing classes — including journaling and creative expression — at many places, including the University of Pennsylvania. She leads a non-fiction writing group and works with individual students, and is continuing to write Jewish-themed readings for what she hopes will become a book, In the Spirit of the Holidays.