After, I read god’s voice; אהבה Swastika
By: Catherine Ragsdale
After, I read god’s voice
like capital letters, booming.
I envied the animals, the fog too.
For them, the morning was thankless,
no commandments to thank god.
I went to study torah on saturdays
and waited my turn to read
the next passage while the old men
crackled their throats
on chai and the rabbi talked
about how abraham opened his
tent in the desert on all sides.
It must have been nice
to feel canvas cinched in his hand,
to decide to open, to have a let
a lech lecha, leave, this desert
is closed. god once told me
I am not open enough, asked if
I had felt the grit in my molars
after closing my mouth
on a desert wind. god once let
a man pry me open like a tent
with a stuck zipper, pull
chet out from my throat.
god put the dust in and after,
I looked for a prayer on my phone
and thanked god for the morning.
His tattoo stops me;
I am stopped by the swastika
on his chest, black, leaning on his heart;
the tattoo stops me, and he is quiet
in his glare, his eyes are not blue
either. The tattoo warns me
for him, his hate
of my muddy faith; his tattoo
is above where mine is pricking
against my ribs. Mine keeps
me from a Jewish graveyard, his keeps
under his see throughwhite
shirt. Am I meant to see it? It could look
like a window turned on its corner if I took
a marker and drew in the lines for him with my palm
pushing hard on his chest. We stand
separate at the dog park, he pets
my dog and I want to say all
the Yiddish words I know, say my tattoo, because he is
in my head, like a rattlesnake. More afraid
of me than I am of him. I know,
I am stopped. We look at one another;
windows between two houses. Bare
ankles in the grass.
Catherine Ragsdale is from Austin, TX. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in poetry at Texas Tech University and holds a BA in Spanish and a BBA in Marketing. She is the recipient of the 2017 Stephan Ross Huffman Poetry Award and the first-place winner of the 2017 Texas Tech Pride Week Poetry Slam.