Being Jewish in a Small Town

Lyn Lifshin

Someone writes kike on
the blackboard and the
"k's" pull thru the
chalk   stick in my
plump pale thighs
even after the high
school burns down the
word is written in
the ashes   my under
pants elastic snaps
on Main St because
I can't go to
Pilgrim Fellowship
I'm the one Jewish girl
in town but the 4
Cohen brothers
want blond hair
blowing from their
car   they don't know
my black braids
smell of almond
I wear my clothes
loose so no one
dreams who I am
will never know
Hebrew   keep a
Christmas tree in
my drawer   in
the dark   my fingers
could be the menorah
that pulls you toward
honey in the snow
From Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry, edited by Marian Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan (Penguin, 1994). Originally appeared in Ghosts of the Holocaust, edited by Stewart J. Florsheim (Wayne State University Press, 1989). Copyright © 1989 by Lyn Lifshin. Reprinted by permission of the poet. All rights reserved.

Further Reading

Back to School Poems
by Grace Schulman
Evening Walk as the School Year Starts
by Sydney Lea
First Gestures
by Julia Spicher Kasdorf
Gradeschool's Large Windows
by Thomas Lux
In Michael Robins’s class minus one
by Bob Hicok
M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School, Detroit 1942
by Philip Levine
Mary's Lamb
by Sarah Josepha Hale
by Martín Espada
Nonsense Alphabet
by Edward Lear
One A.M. [excerpt]
by David Young
Panty Raid
by Terri Ford
by Elizabeth Powell
Sentimental Education
by Mary Ruefle
by Shel Silverstein
The Hand
by Mary Ruefle
The High-School Lawn
by Thomas Hardy
The Junior High School Band Concert
by David Wagoner
The Testing-Tree
by Stanley Kunitz
Theme for English B
by Langston Hughes
We Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks
Why Latin Should Still Be Taught in High School
by Christopher Bursk
You and Your Ilk
by Thomas Lux