by Gelia Dolcimascolo (Atlanta, GA)
On the day before Rosh Hashanah
I do nothing
the start of the New Year.
The Orthodox Jewish teenager
from across the cul-de-sac
greets me with her laptop, some papers,
and a question mark on her face.
We sit side-by-side in my dining room,
like two candles, backs to the cabinet
which holds my parents’ menorah
and the book I am reading, Unorthodox.
We work out rhyme schemes
for odes and ballads,
discuss the rhythm of heartbeats.
A smile replaces the question mark.
On Rosh Hashanah
at the ballet studio.
That night my Episcopalian neighbor
joins us for dinner at our house.
With a wink of his eye, he says I’m not a Jew
simply because I don’t “practice the faith.”
We wrestle over that one.
My fists clench in faux anger;
I straighten him out,
defend my right to the tribe.
Gelia Dolcimascolo, an award-winning poet, is a writing tutor at Georgia State University Perimeter College. Her poems have been published in journals, anthologies, and books, including Heart by Heart: Mothers and Daughters Listening to Each Other; Through a Distant Lens; The Art of Music; and Haiku Pix Review. Her novella, Aurelia and the Library of the Soul, a nominee for the Georgia Author of the Year Award (GAYA), was published in 2016. Born in South Africa, she grew up in Queens, New York, and lived with her husband and daughter in California. She considers herself a “nostalgic” (secular) Jew and enjoys her cultural heritage at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. Her website is www.geliawrites.com
About her poem, “Semitic Semantics,” she writes that it “reflects my views as a non-religious Jew. I sometimes find myself defending my cultural heritage while isolated from mainstream Judaism – an existential dilemma. The poem takes place in Atlanta, roughly a decade ago.”