I stood with the commandments,
followed them to the letter. I hid
who I was – hitchhiked through churches
looking for a handout of spirit,
a whiff of G-d riding on the swing
of incense in a thurible,
hiding the smoke of shoplifted cigarettes.
I kneeled at the altar of the toilet,
trying to be thinner, to shed the weight
of guilt, to blend in with all those sinners –
my lighter friends in their plaid skirts
eating fish dinners on Fridays,
handing over their wrongdoings
in the Sunday confessional.
In my fourth-grade photo I wore two chains:
a cross and a silver Star of David
and believed I had it covered.
by Betsy Mars, first published in Gyroscope Review
Editor’s Note: The idea of “passing” means different things to different cultures and communities, but this poem’s excellent handling of the idea manages to convey the universality of isolation and our need for acceptance.
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