October 22, 2019

Using My Words – A poem for Parsha Mishpatim (Aliyah 1)

Should you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall work [for] six years,
and in the seventh [year], he shall go out to freedom without charge.

I find it unlikely that I would purchase a Hebrew slave
or one of any nationality, really. That’s why I have a ten
year old, to clean up the dishes and adjust the light switches.

I’m training him to transport the garbage from the
inside of the house to the appropriately colored bin
in the land of Goshen, or as I like to call it, the curb
in front of our house.

And surely, after another eight years (these are the laws of
the nation we call home) I will set him free. But even then,
I will send a charge with him as a hundred dollars a month
has been going into his future freedom fund which, I assume,

will be used to purchase the wisdom he will need in the form of
expensive text books and all the fast food he can eat.
There are times in our history where we had to eat so fast…
we couldn’t even finish the preparation of the food

If he takes another [wife] for himself, he shall not diminish
her sustenance, her clothing…

I find it unlikely that I would take another wife
to supplement the one I have, though the one I have
does take a lot of supplements.

I’m committed to doing what I can to keep her sustained
and in clothing (when appropriate). She really has
all the power in this situation anyway

and I’m the one at risk of being let go. So I keep
on my toes and do all the things I’m asked.
I try to remember to close my closet door so she’s

not greeted every morning with a glimpse of my
many shirts. (Though I leave it open a crack so
the cat who likes to sleep in there can find her way.)

I’ve taken to filling up the teapot at night so
there’s no issue with having to refill the Brita
in the morning. I follow the organizational structure

of the kitchen cabinets like it’s the Torah. (Just wait
for my fifty-four part book on where the spices go.
Oh there are poems about bottles of saffron yet to come.)

Shatter our glasses on the kitchen floor, oh divine honey.
I will pour water on top and God know what will grow.
This is forever, never to diminish.

And one who strikes his father or his mother
shall surely be put to death.

I find it unlikely I would strike my father
or my mother. My father, the lifelong fitness guru
who trained the muscle men of Venice beach

wouldn’t notice if I tried. (Not that I have any reason to.)
Did you feel something? He’d ask. A slight breeze?
While I lay winded on the ground from all the effort.

My mother passed away and lays scattered
on the ground in Syracuse, New York so even
a symbolic tap on her shoulder (not that one was

ever necessary or desired) isn’t possible.
Honestly, I’m not much of a striker to begin with.
The worst I could muster is hoping that the front

tire of the guy who cut me off on the freeway
might someday go flat. But even the guilt of that thought
makes me weep.

I don’t understand the fist and any leaning to
raise it against another person. I use my words
when I can. You’re reading some right now.


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 21 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Beautiful Mistakes” (Rothco Press, May 2017) and edited the anthologies “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.