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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

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.


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