Slam It

Five winning poems from a day school competition.

Editor’s Note: The following poems are the winners from a poetry competition held at SAR High School on February 19. Forty-five students from 8 day schools competed and winners were chosen in the categories of Best Poet, Best Free Verse, Best Pantoum and Best Presentation. The poems were prepared in advanced on topics that included a personal religious experience and the holiday of Purim. For information about future competitions, contact coordinator Aaron Roller at a.j.roller@gmail.com

Bonnie Azoulay recites her poem. Best Poet

Pantoum
By Bonnie Azoulay

Who’s to tell me what it means to be Jewish?
To be honest, I am dishonestly judged
From the crook of my nose, to the quantity of food on my plate
Out in Times Square shoulders getting nudged
Might I say, I don't plan on covering my hair
My business deals are fair and square?
For all you know, I'm standing here an atheist
Like I said, I don't plan on covering my hair
For all you know I have absolutely no faith in this
I'm standing here as an atheist,
I'm standing here as a cop out
I have absolutely no faith in this
Frankly I'm Jew-ish without doubt
So excuse me for not having something to write about
I'm standing here as a cop out
Because frankly I'm a liar
So excuse me for I have something to write about
I am exactly what they require
I'm as Jewish as the stereotypes named prior
From the crook of my nose to the quantity on my plate
Out in Times Square shoulders getting nudged
Frankly I'm Jewish without doubt
Now who's to tell me what it means to be Jewish?

Bonnie Azoulay is a senior at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn.

 

Best Poet Runner-Up

How to Beat a Dead Horse
by Tamar Palgon

I stopped
listening to
50s music
immediately.

listening to
all that would
immediately
make me sad.

all that would,
in this world,
make me sad
is wrapped up

in this world
in my heart that
is wrapped up
in you. And

in my heart, that
used to be
in you and
your hands,

used to be
a spot just for
your hands,
your feet,

a spot just for
your dance when
your feet
fell asleep.

Tamar Palgon is a junior at The Frisch School in Paramus, N.J.

 

Best Free Verse 

Free Verse
By Zach Smart

Salvation descended over the desert,
Steel wings slowly tilting.
Dark lips kissed the holy tarmac
raised hands marked by hippopotamus teeth,
scars still crimson as a Sudanese river,
stained by blood of children who never made it across.

Water splashes from yellow buckets onto the slimy floor,
Wetting the tangled beard.
through the pane, planes soar skyward
Slim fingers, once again reach for the toilet brush,
Heft it lightly, remembering the feel of the sacrificial knife,
Handle worn by generations of Kesim
Unchanged while the world around them fell.

The soldiers’ blades always hungered for Jewish blood.
But no one ever told that to the greasy hats and beards,
Who tricked them into the cold water,
Erasing a world with the word Gemara,
An entire people with one parchment page.

Children used to lift their faces to be kissed,
Waiting for wisdom from patient lips.
Now they sprint around spewing smoke
Jeering at the figure who squats in the filth.

The toilet brush falls to the floor,
Discarded like a people.
Like the body that dangles above it,
Ragged shoes slowly tilting in skin-dark shadow,
Hanging over the land that
proved less welcoming than promised.

Zach Smart is a junior at SAR High School in Riverdale.

 

Best Pantoum

Pantoum
By Atara Goodman

The scrap of paper between my fingers feels like a lost paradise
The words I write are a dream I never want to let go of
Because paper is how I pray
But the image of paper fades into a pixelated screen

The words I write are a dream I never want to let go of
Down with the screens that are robbing me of my paper dreams
The image of paper fades into a pixelated screen
Paper airplanes soaring out a window and tumbling to the ground

Down with the screens that are robbing me of my paper dreams
I’m scared that my dreams will disappear because I wrote them on paper
Paper airplanes soaring out a window and tumbling to the ground
my prayers are gone with the wind

I’m scared that my dreams will disappear because I wrote them on paper
I wrote my prayers on the wings of paper airplanes
my prayers are gone with the wind
and I can only hope my prayers are flying to heaven

I wrote my prayers on the wings of paper airplanes
but paper is disappearing and I don't  know how to pray anymore
I can only hope my prayers are flying to heaven
because I want to thank God for my ability to write.

the scrap of paper between my fingers feels like a lost paradise
it breaks my heart that I wrote this poem on an ipad
because paper is how I pray
but I don't know how to pray to a pixelated screen

Atara Goodman is a senior at Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Merion Station, Pa.

 

Best Presentation

Training Wheels & Trust
By Celeste Marcus

There’s a man who works in an office in the back of my school
He sees this world in computer codes, in 1s and 0s and black and white buildings and touch screen statistics
he walked off Wall Street
beat the game he’d triaged over training wheels and trust
He told me Judaism is a system
that it is perfect because it is true
Sir did you tire from plugging up the holes in your old life
stuffing your fingers into the schisms in the capitalistic value system?
That world is built on misrepresentations and flawed associations and the innocence that drinks it in because they’ve been told fairy tales - mapped them into the far off futures of false realities
Fallacies of being set, of being satisfied
in that society such peaceful places don’t exist
the addiction becomes to faultily found proscription for fixing yourself
for “making it”
but the ladder's always two rungs higher
ask any members of a major corporation what their number is for retirement
they’ll tell you twice what they have now
it’s a trap
Things have been getting pretty flipped upside down
priorities are inside out
This society defines freedom differently than it was meant to be
the ability to rise in the ranks is just a different kind of slavery
It’s got me thinking about 20 years from now
will I be chained to a desk hell bent on success typing up briefs at ten o’clock at night
Thinking in the back of my mind, maybe I should be back at home with my baby
I’ll think about the man who flipped this backwards world who’d walked off Wall Street
And of the one day a year when I’m meant to lose my grasp on truths
so much that this game, this way of life that I’ve triaged over training wheels, trust and faith
Will be so flipped on its head that I'll start to see straight

Celeste Marcus is a junior at Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Merion Station, Pa.