there was no God.
Only the dust under the refrigerator
the mud pies in the sandbox
the one two three and up we go.
Holding my parents’ hands
feet off the ground
reaching for the sky.
In first grade,
Pray to God, the teacher said.
Stand next to your desk.
Beat your breasts.
Peeling brown paint off the desk with my finger.
Turning the pages of the prayer book.
Rocking and shaking and trembling.
Mouthing the words.
But God knew
I was thinking about cartoons comic books Coca-Cola
crumpled papers covered with big red x’s hidden in my cubby
behind the wool scarf my mother gave me every morning to wrap around my head the pizza we ate on Passover the toast with strawberry jam on Yom Kippur the Chocolate Eclair Bars we bought from the Good Humor man on Rosh Hashanah.
about the ghosts that visited on Shabbat eating challah drinking wine whispering the Shema as I pressed my finger on the soft white belly of the tablecloth and wrote,
This piece is a part of the Berru Poetry Series, which supports Jewish poetry and poets on PB Daily. JBC also awards the Berru Poetry Award in memory of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash as a part of the National Jewish Book Awards. Click here to see the 2021 winner of the prize. If you’re interested in participating in the series, please check out the guidelines here.
Paulette K. Fire is a writer in Boulder, Colorado. Her work has appeared in Harvard Review, Carve Magazine, The Pinch, Unbroken, Capsule Stories, the Jewish Literary Journal, Lilith, Alaska Quarterly Review (forthcoming) and Potomac Review (forthcoming). Her essay, “Presumably Murdered,” was chosen as a Notable Essay by The Best American Essays 2019.