Matthew Lippman is the author of three poetry collections, American Chew, winner of The Burnside Review of Books Poetry Prize, Monkey Bars (Typecast Publishing) and The New Year of Yellow (Sarabande Books), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize. He is the recipient of the 2010 Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from The American Poetry Review.
**Recipient of Best of the Net 2013 Finalist**
In the Basement of the Holy House
I sat in the synagogue
and decided not to be a Jew.
Just for a second.
I wanted to see how it felt.
It felt like the yellow traffic signal
on the corner of South and Center.
Why don’t you want to be a Jew? my daughter said.
How did you know?
I can read your mind.
No way, I said. She smiled.
I closed my eyes.
You are thinking about how stupid mid twenties hipsters are
when they fall into their Existential free-fall,
four to six years after university, then wind up doing what most people do in America–
head out and make some money.
Someone close to us said the word Adonai.
How did you guess? I said.
I told you, she said.
You are only seven, I said.
Seven goes a long way in this world
and that is no joke.
When I came back to being a Jew
The Torah had been put away and Kiddush was happening
in the basement of the holy house
I was all alone in the sanctuary except for God,
I swear to it, who didn’t even yell or scream
or sink a blazing fireball into the middle of my chest
for not believing, even for just a second.
Thanks, I said. Not a problem, God said,
and it was like we had just shared a tuna fish sandwich
and there was nothing left, not even one little crumb.