Sun­set, Eugène Delacroix, 1850 

The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, Gift from the Karen B. Cohen Col­lec­tion of Eugène Delacroix, in hon­or of Philippe de Mon­te­bel­lo, 2014

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,

God arrived.

Pray to God, the teacher said.

Stand next to your desk.

Beat your breasts.

Beg for­give­ness.

Bow.


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.

God knew


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,


Pleasegod­pleasegod­pleasegod.


This piece is a part of the Berru Poet­ry Series, which sup­ports Jew­ish poet­ry and poets on PB Dai­lyJBC 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.