Poetica Magazine

Poetica Magazine

In Response to the Question: "What Makes Your Poem Jewish?"
by Maya Bernstein 

My son who’s in first grade had a nightmare.


“We were a pod of dolphins and they came and captured us,”

he said while eating pancakes. Then, “Was Moses real?


A stick can’t turn into a snake. I think it’s a myth.”

It sounded like “miff,” heavy of lips and heavy


of tongue. So I told him, “The stick is not what matters.

The stick is the distraction. The decoy. It’s the words


that matter. The words can split the sea. The words can

bring forth water from a rock.” I thought about the Midrash


where Abram tries to prove that idols don’t have power.

I decided that I am like the woman who brings an offering


for the idols, and my poems are like the idol

who took a stick in hand and toppled all the other idols,


and the stick is meant to distract the fishermen in the dream

when they cast their nets, slimy, disturbing the water


yet impossible to detect, and whether we believe a stick

can turn into a snake determines whether the dolphins


get caught or escape, porpoising into the deep indigo sea.

About the Author

Maya Bernstein’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Allium, By the Seawall, the Cider Press Review, Ghost City Review, Lilith Magazine, Tablet Magazine, and elsewhere. She is on faculty at Georgetown University and Yeshivat Maharat, and is pursuing an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. Her first collection is There Is No Place Without You (Ben Yehuda Press, 2022). Maya was selected as a Scholar for Yetzirah's inaugural poetry conference in June, 2023.