To Keep From Unraveling

We eat sprigs of parsley 
dipped in saltwater tears with ravenous joy,  
because it’s the first thing we’ve had to eat
all evening and we’re starving.  

We eat chopped sweet apples and horseradish
together like that combination makes sense.
We drink red wine leaning, dribbling wine droplets
on the previously pristine tablecloth.

We eat “Grandma’s Famous Matzah Ball Soup” 
that we know came from the Manischewitz box mix 
because Grandma’s a shit cook 
but we love her anyway.

We eat this feast of affliction foods 
because even if you don’t believe in it,
even if you don’t believe that God 
waved a hand across the sky 

and brought us out from Egypt 
with an outstretched arm - 
even if you don’t believe in any of this shit,
there is still some thread 

you want to keep from unraveling.
So, by the eighth day, you’re eating matzah
topped with ketchup and overpriced cheese
like it’s the best pizza you’ve ever had.

***

Written for dVerse, Go Dog Go Cafe, and Twiglets

97 comments

  1. I find this to be hilarious. Mostly because many Christians take Passover so seriously and eat the parsley, apples and horseradish so solemnly as it was their last supper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, until I read your comment, I had no idea that Christians celebrated Passover in the same way. I mean, it makes sense, being that Jesus’s Last Supper was a Passover seder. I just never put two and two together. So this is in addition to Good Friday and Easter? Do they follow the Haggadah or a similar text? Do they refrain from leavened products for eight days? Is it a particular sect of Christians who observe this? I’m so curious now!

      Many Jews take Passover commandments and tradition (which is sometimes indistinguishable from commandment) very seriously too. I wanted my poem to have some levity because I’m of the (probably unpopular) opinion that tradition, no matter how meaningful or important, is just a little bit silly and illogical. But we love and treasure it nonetheless.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The answer is no to leavened products and the Haggadah. It might be more of a Protestant practice than a Catholic practice to celebrate Passover, but I can’t say for sure. I attended one Passover service once in a fellowship hall many year ago and thought it was be pretty bizarre. We were to be solemn like it was our last supper. Of course, there is never wine in the Methodist church, they use grape juice, and the grape juice is served in tiny communion cups.

        Communion (the Eucharist) was part of the service. Pastor: “This is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins!” We drank the ounce of grape juice. Pastor: “This is my body broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me!” We ate a little piece of bread.

        The Protestants have two sacraments: the Eucharist (holy communion) and baptism. The Catholics have seven sacraments. Besides the Eucharist and Baptism, there’s Reconciliation, Confirmation, Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders.

        The Catholics believe in Transubstantiation where the wine turns into the real blood of Jesus and the bread his real flesh. Protestants don’t go there. That was part of the Reformation. Passover for Christians is about the last supper. I think most Christians have little or no sense of the significance it holds for Jews.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Fascinating. So Passover seder, but with bread for Communion? Huh. To me, it sounds more like the Christians observing a Passover seder just have an entirely different significance attached to it. Which makes sense. For Jews, its the retelling and celebration of being freed from slavery. I suppose for the Protestants it’s a solemn commemoration of Jesus’s last meal.

          In Hebrew School, shortly before Passover, our Rabbi would coordinate with the local Catholic church and all the CCD students and teachers would come to our synagogue for an explanatory model seder with us. It was fun. My CCD friends were always like, “this matzah is so delicious” and we were like, “it’s not that great – try eating it for eight days straight!”

          Liked by 1 person

          • I think few, if any, Christians who celebrate Passover have a sense of it being a celebration for being freed from slavery. It’s all about the last supper. Tortillas are my unleavened bread.

            Liked by 1 person

          • The prevailing rabbinic opinion is that tortillas are not kosher for Passover. Which is unfortunate because Passover burrito night sounds kind of awesome. Well, rice, beans, and corn are out too actually, so maybe not because this would be a pretty lame burrito. Ok, never mind. Passover burrito night wouldn’t work all that well anyway. But yes, enjoy your unleavened tortillas which Dave’s Super Insanity++ Ghost Pepper sauce!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Properly made tortillas would not be kosher in the least. But since I don’t have to worry about being kosher a Passover burrito with Ghost Pepper sauce would be perfectly insane for me. Speaking of kosher, many years ago one of our staff started eating kosher food. I didn’t think she was Jewish, which she wasn’t, but she heard kosher foods were “clean”. She got the idea that kosher food was clean, like Clorox clean, processed under super clean facilities with only pure, clean, and healthy ingredients.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Traditional tortillas are make with lard. You would not eat them. I think most commercial tortillas are made with vegetable shortening.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this especially; “We drink red wine leaning, dribbling wine droplets on the previously pristine tablecloth.” Gorgeous rendition of the prompt 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really like this, JYP. I am not at all familiar with Jewish traditions or the food so I can’t fully engage with the emotions or the flavours but I love the way the poem is expressed and the crescendo in the last two stanzas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matza lasagna is great! Well, “great” by Pesach standards. And matza pizza is considerably improved when you use matza brei as the crust (don’t make it too thick though) topped with tomato sauce and toppings. I wanted something less appetizing for the poem.

      Like

  4. Oh, this is so true:
    “even if you don’t believe in any of this shit,
    there is still some thread

    you want to keep from unraveling.”

    But no matza ball mix or sinkers for me! 😊

    And shit makes me think of “shitarein.” Do you know that term–the way my mom cooked, and I do, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel like appreciating the humor of tradition is part of appreciating the tradition.

      Horseradish and charoset (a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, wine, although there are many regional variations) isn’t the worst combination. But it’s also not something I would eat without the religious imperative to do so at the Seder.

      Like

  5. Aww, I loved your lively, sarcastic approach to a serious topic and I laughed out loud at your third stanza. Some traditions do seem silly, yet the repetition of them brings a sense of comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the balance here between cynicism about the origin of the tradition and yet still enjoying the tradition and the way it ties people together. It’s a paradox I appreciate. I love the way you used the prompt, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. There’s often a connection that transcends the original motivation.

      Thank you for the prompt inspiration! At first, I was concerned that “believe” wasn’t on your list but then I realized that “eat” was the perfect verb for the anaphora here

      Like

  7. Hi JYP.
    You wrote – ‘it’s the first thing we’ve had to eat
    all evening and we’re starving. ‘
    I remember the days when the boys all lived at home and the only question they kept asking all erev Pesach was ‘What’s to eat?’
    This became a source of family humor, especially after we saw the movie Napolean Dynamite, where Napolean, in his low funny voice, asks his grandma ‘What’s to eat?”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “there is still some thread
    you want to keep from unraveling.” I feel that way about Christianity. I’m trying to weed through all I was taught (from fundamentalism to evangelical) to determine what is interpretation and what is real. It is a hard row to hoe.
    I really like this Jewish look at tradition today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I definitely get that. Religion is often presented as an all-or-nothing proposition, but I don’t feel that it has to be that way. Even with tradition, I think there are some traditions worth keeping, and some that I will never keep, even if they are tradition. I cannot say that this poem represents a widespread Jewish belief or approach to tradition – it’s just my own thoughts. I hope that you find an approach that works for you with respect to the traditions that you want to keep.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. […] One day, this steel stormy sky will rip the tail off and you’ll feel the bitter cold wind, the not-yet-spring awakening of a life turned upside-down reverberating in your skull like a migraine – so cold but you can’t even shiver cause you’ll fucking lose it. (The details don’t matter; it’s all the same story – tragedies are merely square tiles on the chessboard and who gives a damn.) You can beg for the why, you can take the holy part of yourself as if it is a moon wrapped in brown paper and light it on fire, sacrificing it to small gods. But you’ll learn the universe never gave a damn about religion or rain dances, that rationality is a cruel comfort. Fewer days remain of this life, transient as the wind, so, you might as well savor the short-lived relief of small exhilarations to bandage the cracks – jump on the diving board and let yourself fall – you have nothing else to hold on to. Let what sings like angels when you read it linger on your lips like a long, slow kiss, like it’s the best pizza you’ve ever had. […]

    Like

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