Jeff Friedman ~ Three Prose Poems

Elijah

 

I leave my aro­ma, strong enough to put out the lights or clear a room, to Cassie, my veg­an lover, who can use it to pro­tect her patch of veg­eta­bles and plants. I leave a pile of hair to my pil­low, to the many dust bun­nies leap­ing from room to room, to the finch­es look­ing for fur to line their nests. I leave all my best insults to Sri Lanka, for­mer­ly Louis, who has stolen most of them any­way and used them on me. I leave all my com­plaints and prob­lems to Ellie, so she will nev­er run out of prob­lems or com­plaints. I leave my tears to my sis­ter of the dry eyes, to the dying clouds that no longer bring rain, to the mer­ci­less gods that tear away our roots. I leave half of my dirt and garbage bags to the bear, who pil­lages my dump­ster, the oth­er half to the com­post heap. Please wrap my heart up and fly it on ice to the tin man or wom­an who needs it the most.  Please plant my seeds in a bil­lion warm vagi­nas.  Please deliv­er a small por­tion of my ash­es once a mon­th through direct deposit to some deserv­ing soul, and let the bees car­ry my pol­len in swarms. I leave my bones as the build­ing blocks of the Third Temple. What have I for­got­ten?  Oh yes, and always set a place for me at the table and leave the door open. When you least expect it, I’ll be back for din­ner.

 

Eve

 

The snake dis­guised as Satan hand­ed Eve the fruit of the for­bid­den tree. “Eat this,” he said, “and you’ll know every­thing.” Her breasts sore from bug bites and her shoul­ders sun­burned, she was ready to lis­ten to rea­son. “How can I be sure you’re real­ly Satan,” she asked. The snake coiled around the tree, opened his fanged mouth. “You’re a snake, she said, “not Satan.” “Satan comes in many forms,” he replied. She bit into the fruit, as Adam emerged from the foliage. Now she could see God hov­er­ing in the mist, float­ing in the swarms of insects, show­er­ing over every­thing like rays of sun. Now she knew that she was naked in a gar­den and could hear a voice walk­ing in the heat of the after­noon. Sap oozed from the trunks of trees.  Sweat dripped from leaves and needles. Flowers breathed nox­ious fumes. Now she could see that there was no snake, no Satan, only God test­ing her and Adam.  She cov­ered her­self with a gar­ment of leaves, swat­ting insects away from her body. “Give me the apple,” Adam said. “First kill the snake,” she replied, “and then we’ll talk.”

 

Kings

 

We exe­cut­ed one king because of his mur­der­ous ways—dead bod­ies piled up in the streets as if there had been anoth­er plague.  We exe­cut­ed anoth­er king because he taxed us into obliv­ion, then took our homes and accounts, our pass­words open­ing into emp­ty cyber space. We exe­cut­ed anoth­er king because he turned our daugh­ters into con­cu­bi­nes and our sons into slaves. And we exe­cut­ed anoth­er king because, we couldn’t raise enough live­stock, couldn’t har­vest enough veg­eta­bles and grain to sat­is­fy his greed and glut­tony. Now no one want­ed to be king, so we decid­ed we would all be kings.

We took over the palace and the stores. We held parades in our hon­or. We issued decrees and cre­at­ed new laws to sus­tain us. Soon the killing, plun­der­ing, and pil­lag­ing resumed. Then we exe­cut­ed our­selves.

~

Jeff Friedman’s sev­en­th book—a col­lec­tion of prose poems, fables and mini tales—is forth­com­ing from Plume Editions/MadHat Press. His poems, mini sto­ries and trans­la­tions have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, New England Review, The Antioch Review, Poetry International, Plume, Hotel Amerika, Flash Fiction Funny, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Agni Online, The New Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poets, New Flash Fiction Review, The New Republic and numer­ous oth­er lit­er­ary mag­a­zi­nesDzvinia Orlowsky’s and his trans­la­tion of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was pub­lished by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014. Friedman and Orlowsky were award­ed an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship for 2016. Nati Zohar and Friedman’s book of trans­la­tions Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poems of the Bible, was recent­ly pub­lished by Singing Bone Press.