The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


X. J. Kennedy


I meet a Jew, we always hit it off,
Outsiders that we are. We tend to band
Together separately. We understand
Each not belonging to the other’s club,

Excluding me from Talmud, Yom Kippur,
Uncircumcised as I’m, born far from folks
Who struggled in a ghetto. Different strokes,
That’s us. But meat a rabbi’s blade makes pure,

Chopped liver, challah, pickles, macaroons
Nest in my hungry mouth like home sweet home.
I feel a long way now from Peter’s Rome
And somehow nearer to Jerusalem,

To Jewish laughter: when a baby’s bladed,
His first ten per cent cut. “Is that the highest
In the church a boy can go? Just Pope? Not Christ?
So why not? One of our boys made it.”

Surrounded by a neighborhood that pays
Jesus lip-service---maybe it annoys
Them just a bit? They don’t complain. We goys
Infect their children with our special days:

Some Jewish tots believe in Santa Claus
And coax for stockings, gifts on Christmas eve,
With chocolate Easter bunnies stuff their jaws---
Legends that fewer Christians still believe.

And yet the Jews I know don’t seem to mind.
They have one up on me. More centuries past
Remain their heritage. My lucky kind
Haven’t been herded, shipped to death camps, gassed.




X. J. KENNEDY's most recent books are In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New & Selected PoemsFits of Concision: collected poems of six or fewer lines; An Introduction to Poetry,  thirteenth edition, coauthored with Dana Gioia; and a comic novel, A Hoarse Half-human Cheer.  Awards for his verse include the Poets' Prize, the Robert Frost medal of the Poetry Society of America, and the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers.  He and his wife Dorothy live in Lexington, Massachusetts.



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