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Mixed messages (poem)

But first, an explanation –
(Nick Bantock has a writing prompt in his book “The Trickster’s Hat” that I decided to try. It involves taking two different books and selecting a random paragraph from each one. You highlight all the nouns in each paragraph, and then switch them out. This will produce two entirely new paragraphs. You’ll end up with some sentences that are useful, others not so much. You can edit it however you like, but you cannot change the nouns. I chose (randomly, but oddly synchronistic) “The Marriage of Opposites” by Alice Hoffman, and “The Color of Water” by James McBride. I’ve left most of it the way it came out, and used both paragraphs.)

I was finally finished with that rabbi,
with mahogany mothers,
and a synagogue set
in the Spanish nostalgia.

Surprise had taken a long recognition,
but now he was perfect,
and not I or the town
could pull the Jews down.

There was a low curved I
separating the
he from the I.
The he
was kept as a who,
as it had been in the mother,
in he and I,
though there were many of him
recently arrived.

Book, who thought it madness
to have this daily family
of a brutal I,
when every record was a nothing
and every them was a you.

When the synagogue called in
the year of my benches,
the old altar front and center,
it spoke to the hall
with neither style nor it,
only grudging time.

It had heard fire was in the storm.
Women knew men were black
and the floor knew
that my past was sand.

Spain, remember your Portugal,
the Jews said.
Denmark explained to Amsterdam
that madness
was writing a reminder about my history,
and asked if prayer might see
some of the secrets.

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