It’s been my good fortune to spend a week studying poetry with the incredible Marge Piercy and an exceptional group of poets from across the United States and Canada. If one were to try and locate this transformative experience on the spectrum of life events, it would be situated between divine revelation, a gourmet cooking show, and literary boot camp. 

Alas, there was an unfortunate event (only one, not a series of them as per Lemony Snicket) that happened. Which meant that instead of writing a progressive reflection about Father’s Day, a painful matter rose to the surface and took the form of a poem…


Wellfleet, June 16, 2018


White man of a certain age, old enough to be my father

You casually tell a Jewish joke over sunlit Saturday breakfast

With your retired WASPY friends

You tell it

Loud enough for me to hear

With my back to you

How did “The Wicked Oyster” become your private dining room?



Your joke

You really thought it was funny and I debated,

To change my seat – or not?

To leave – or not?

To confront you – or not?

Your casual mention of rape

of a Jewish woman

during leisurely Saturday breakfast

Induced ancient terror.



At first, I thought I could tough it out

Order and eat my breakfast in the same room

With you, “Citizen”, who on this Bloomsday, has escaped the pages of “Ulysses.”

Entitled White Man,

As you told the joke,

I turned around and stared

But your back was to me.

I wanted to rise, to shatter your meal.

Dead aunts, uncles, and cousins counseled me:




You did not see my daggered eye

But a woman across from you did.

I gave her my stare of centuries

An indictment of her calm breakfast

For not telling you to

Shut the fuck up

For not telling you to

Halt and apologize

Or at least lower your voice…

To let her see and know my disgust

I removed black sunglasses and gave her my Shylock glare

Even though I have been taught to respect my elders.



My friend the poet saw

I could not order breakfast.

I said: “Let’s just pay for coffee” and plunked my money down

Much more than two coffees worth,

Let the staff know that I am not a cheap Jewess.

My righteous friend, she speaks

to the waitress, she explains

to the hostess, and

The other dining room that at first, was not opened,

Suddenly is available to us.

There is a lovely table beside a window.



There were innocent people in the restaurant.

I thought about the quality of

Their weekend breakfast and

Wondered if my pain and offense

Might be seen as self-indulgent and selfish

I did not make a scene.




I wish I could change the world

This Saturday morning, with the help

of a Righteous Gentile,

I changed my table.

Savored smoked salmon and poached eggs.

An American Anti-Semite

Cannot be allowed to ruin

An all-American breakfast.


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