Suburbs of Zion[i]


Roberta P. Feins


He who drinks wine to the accompaniment of music

is culpable unless he is thinking of the destruction of the Temple,

and forcing his heart to be sad. Rabbi Hai Gaon 11th century



i. Sabbath Ō63


Moses (maybe God), our white-bearded Rabbi

leans out the pulpit's prow, Captain

of Progress in difficult waters. Candle-flame

heads of bronze women dance,


jeweled eternal light sways on a leash,

above CantorÕs Purify our hearts

truth truth truth, accompanied

by a choirÕs Episcopal trill.


Ark doors pray in verdigris letters

punctuated with grapes, peacocks. Slid open,

lights go on inside (like our home Frigidaire).

Torah in mustard velvet, crowned silver


tinkling bells, cradled doll. This weekÕs

portion, The Golden Calf: vain worship

false gilded. Rabbi lines the undressed

scroll with a slender silver pointer.


If I were bereaved, I could now rise

from dark honey pew and chant Kaddish.

Rabbi blesses us all, his arms extend to our bowed heads.

We kiss left and right, Good Shabbos.


Phil lifts me up, swings me around. We laugh

through bronze-handled doors, past Moses

with his seagulls into the Social Hall,

where we bless grape juice, cookies:


Baroque adorns and annoys.

Jello halo make like a nun;

Pray pre-McMuffin.


I sneak daisy cookies to wear

on my fingers, nibble thin, thinner.

Fragrant Mother, Dad in his suit

talk and talk, till IÕve tugged and tugged

at their resisting arms.


You cannot, he said, leaning forward,

poking at DadÕs disagreement

get them to work. We hire them, God knows,

but theyÕre lazy and they steal. DonÕt last 6 weeks.


Line of poplars guard dark parking.

Mother lingers over good-bye; Buick

curves the deep, mysterious Parkway.

Dad sings We are coming home; I wake.


ii. Dissolution


RabbiÕs retired to Santa Fe with his young wife;

nobody can lead prayers with the same expansive.

The new rabbi is so obese, Mom says,

I canÕt bear to watch him pray. Congregation split,


north to richer suburbs, West to be nearer

grandchildren, cancer. Phil (rest in peace)

phoned around some Fridays to assure a minyan.

This Sabbath, the dead attend


via bronze plaques nailed to the wall.

Widows wobble towards me, blue-ribbed claws

outstretched, smell of piss, perfume.

Minks crouch on their hunched shoulders.


The new Temple President extols Volunteerism.

Everyone must participate, so no-one carries all the load.

They squirm like school-children: staffÕs gone,

library sold to a rare book collector, building


to an AME Church. How

will velvet, bronze, silver, tile learn

to praise Jesus? Now I may rise for Kaddish

below the scythe of Eternal Light. Bitter inclusion.


Punch and cookies still, but few greet Mom

remember her silver-shot gown,

prominent husband. The rabbi turns away

from her drag-footed approach.


Silent ramÕs horn, dark the candles

of mourning bronze women.

On parking lot poplars, we hang our lyres

Our tongues have forgotten their cunning.






Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal Winter 2010 Volume 7 Number 2

ISSN 1209-9392

© 2010 Women in Judaism, Inc.


All material in the journal is subject to copyright; copyright is held by the journal except where otherwise indicated. There is to be no reproduction or distribution of contents by any means without prior permission. Contents do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors.



[i] Women in Judaism First Annual Writing Competition, First Place winner in Poetry.

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