Family Business – a poem for Torah Portion Vayikra

March 26, 2020

And the kohen shall bring [the bird] near to the altar,
and nip off its head

My mother’s maiden name was Cohen
so even though the job of priest is passed on
through our fathers, I consider it the family business.

My father, whose last name isn’t Cohen
is a priest in his own rite. People come to him
for the rituals they need to stay alive forever.

My last name will never be Cohen
but I do the best I can to keep the words
of my ancestors on my tongue.

Despite this, I’m not sure how the Cohens
who came before me would feel about me
declining to rip apart the bird.

When I see a bird within a mile of our home
I’m off to the pet store to make sure I have
whatever it needs to eat.

It goes on – There was the time a squirrel
ended up in our house thanks to its own
chimney explorations. My first thought was

to bring it a carrot, whereas the rest of my
home-bound priestly legacies made it clear
the first thing should have been to

try to get it out of the house. I believe in
rituals that keep anything that breathes alive.
As the song says, I believe in love.

(Though I forget which song. There are
so many songs.) This is my religion. This is
my family legacy. This is what I believe.

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 23 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 “Hunka Hunka Howdee!” (Poems written in Memphis, Nashville, and Louisville – Ain’t Got No Press, May 2019) 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.

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