The Daily Contortions

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The Daily Contortions

The Daily Contortions

Like many of Philip Metres's poems, today's selection looks at what stands in the way of peace.

"The Daily Contortions" by Philip Metres

He’s rushing down the block, away
from shul, dressed in black hat, black
coat and pants, even black socks
peeking beneath lemon yellow

crocs. Yom Kippur—my daughter’s
ten-year-old friend Tehila informs us—
you can’t wear leather, you don’t eat,
you get the chance to become

an angel
. The kids are gathered, chosen
neighbors around Aviva’s swing,
whose arc’s so wide you wonder
if you’re flying. The seat chains ascend

to a limb so high it’s heaven,
whatever our religion. We take turns
giving underdogs, which means helping
others to wing, as Leila says,

still lacking letters. Who can use
the swing, what symbols printed
on boxes indicate something is
not forbidden—these are the daily

signs we study and are
flummoxed by. In the meantime,
Aviva, our neighbor, the splitting
image of my daughter, refuses

her pretzels: I don’t give non-Jews
pretzels
, she explains, then,
but I can give them to my dog.
But Adele’s almost Jewish
, Rahel

insists. Aren’t you, Adele?
Who among us does not want pretiola
“little rewards” the monks would grant
to children reciting Bible verses,

which, read wrongly, one day would darken
into Kristallnacht? The little arms
of bracchia folded in prayer, a crucifixion
treat to savor and swallow. Here the daily

contortions continue. Who can do
what and who cannot and by what
law is it possible, and to sate
which God hungry for our obedience?

I want to shake this little angel,
the flaming sword of her words
expelling my daughter
from the garden

of her sunburned yard. The peace process
is a matter of a third girl, Rahel,
breaking her pretzel,
handing the savory splinter to Adele.

"The Daily Contortions" by Philip Metres first appeared in Come Together: Imagine Peace. Eds. Philip Metres, Ann Smith and Larry Smith. Bottom Dog Press, 2008. Used with permission of the author.

Philip Metres is the author and translator, most recently, of The Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties by Lev Rubinstein (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2014), A Concordance of Leaves (Diode, 2013), abu ghraib arias (Flying Guillotine, 2011), and is a Creative Workforce Fellow in 2014.