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“Licorice Fern” was written when I was writer-in-residence at Bloedel Nature Reserve, Bainbridge Island, Washington, August 2017. There were terrible fires just to the north on Vancouver Island then.


Licorice Fern


Leaves are falling from the maple and black cottonwood,

a rain of green so beautiful I forget


it’s because of the drought.

The alder cannot hold onto its little serrated boats. 


I start to count types of ferns: sword fern, lacy,

licorice. An epiphyte on the branches of


bigleaf maples: they say this fern will survive

even if the moss dries, rehydrating after winter rains.


We think they are delicate, but fine-toothed fronds can

still propel like weapons from the hands of children.



Now the calling of birds: flicker, creeper, nuthatch.

Counting is habit forming, such certainty like the counting


of days of the Omer, the preparation and anticipation

of freedom: seven weeks, forty-nine days between the redemption


from slavery and receiving of the Torah. There is too much

to remember:  why must we be responsible for all the ills?


I have told you of the fire and ash, the sun fighting through

smoke to show its colors; now I wait for the fawn to discover


its face in the reflection pool and its mother to track her

two offspring, to keep them close, to let them wander.


forthcoming CCAR Journal (Central Conference of American Rabbis), 2022

“Shmita” is a new poem.




This year, the 18th month

of the pandemic, is a shmita,

a sabbatical year, where the land

must be left fallow, any remaining

crops free for the needy.


            In the beginning,

but there isn’t always one,

as now lavender layers overlap

until darkness spreads

to every corner of the sky.


My husband tries to extract a word,

a stubborn root left for years;

it refuses to offer itself for harvest.

His once fertile mind eroding to desert.


The book of Leviticus instructs

the land must be given a rest,

its own Sabbath to replenish, but what if

a man is desperate to sow and reap,

his family dependent on these crops for survival?


How much further will my husband retreat?

In a year, will sentences disappear as when

the whale swallowed Jonah whole?


G-d promises bountiful harvests.

This month as others welcome

the new year, it is hard to celebrate.


forthcoming CCAR Journal (Central Conference of American Rabbis), 2022

“Out Early with the Angels” is a recent poem. Now, living back in Mar Vista and during the pandemic, I usually am out on a run at 6:30 a.m. and often pass by a nursing home. That was the impetus for this poem.


Out Early with the Angels


Just as daylight cracks open,

pink streamers weaving through the clouds.


A gathering of staff at a nursing home.

Standing, tiered on an outdoor staircase,


waiting to be admitted, masked but lively.

Bursts of laughter punctuate the quiet street


as I run past. They line up as if waiting

for the photographer at a wedding, but dressed


in white, the color of the bride’s gown, not shades

of purple or dayglo green of her attendants.


Perhaps angels in a Renaissance painting, their wings

folded on their backs, arms outstretched to the Virgin Mary.


Jews did not believe in angels, I always thought,

though later I learned the story of Jacob wrestling


one all night, though whether Esau’s guardian angel

or a demonic spirit was never clear.


Injured in the skirmish, Jacob persevered until

he received a blessing and the new name of Israel.


We call these healthcare workers angels

though what they want is for us to be responsible.


Now the door swings open and the group,

mostly women, enter to start a new shift as


night retreats in the pale sky.


forthcoming CCAR Journal (Central Conference of American Rabbis), 2022

“Russian Chocolates” came from my last time in Russia, when I spent January 2018 teaching in Ulan-Ude, Buryatia Republic, Siberia. The city is an ethnic minority region near the Mongolian border. But the poem also refers to a time when I was living in St. Petersburg.


Russian Chocolates


I never knew I had patriotism until I moved to Russia.

Now I fight the urge to justify all the things I criticized back home.

The apartment building staircase reeks of urine.

Communal space is not valued here.

Cigarette butts mound in the lobby.

Piles of dirty snow line the street.

Why can’t you camp wherever you want to in America?

a fellow instructor in Ulan-Ude asks.


We wait to be rescued by the bell.

So many topics we cannot understand about one another:

how I wanted my children to go away for university,

how she will decide her children’s careers.


My Siberian colleagues like it when I recite

all I love about Russia, but suspicious too.

They perceive life in the U.S. is easier.


What is your background?

Living in Russia, I am often asked this question.

In America, a code for

You don’t really belong here. This is not your home.


Here men from the Caucuses are yanked from the metro

escalator by police demanding their papers.

Back home men and women of color are pulled over while driving.

On a tram the other day a young man yelled at my landlady to

go back to Israel, a country she has never been to.

I used to think that would never happen in America,

but that was then.


On a break between classes, someone has set out a plate

of cookies and Russian chocolates

wrapped in brightly decorated foil,

put the kettle on for tea.

This ritual so important, civilizing.


On the Seawall, 2020

“Nursery Rhyme” came from my interest in Jewish (and other) superstitions.


Nursery Rhyme


                                    A life is not a recollection of facts  

  Charles Baxter


I did not avoid the cracks in the sidewalk because they

would break

my mother’s back.

They would crack mine. I knew this for certain, the way

a driver feels the creep of another car on her tail and knows

she is about to be slammed into.

Some secrets I cannot divulge:

Watching the clock at midnight will set tragedy in motion.

Confessing to the smallest infraction results in banishment.

I do not admit to belief in superstitions.

The commandment against boasting is a precaution

against the evil eye, who waits to snatch babies.

The 9th of Av a fast day to keep away further horrors.

The golem can rise again, his protection so fleeting.

The danger of a friend turning against you as real

as a disease invading the body, once you name it aloud.


CCAR Journal (Central Conference of American Rabbis), 2019

forthcoming in the anthology Without a Doubt: Poems Illustrating Faith, 2022

Mon, June 5 2023 16 Sivan 5783