Tag Archives: Baal Teshuvah

False Imprisonment


 by Dana Janine Diamond 

We ask for Mercy

extending forgiveness

like an old tree branch

bending toward the river,

leaves flowing by

currents confusing,

we know it’s our only  prospect

at getting to Grace.

We beg for clemency

agreeing that decency

is the salient, saving factor

in our long climb out

the chance we took

to escape from our own

little prisons,

we ran, we crawled,

we leaped, we sang,

unsure if the doors clanging

shut – would signal

our capture

or release.

At the break of day

the whispered question

“Do I regret…?”

“We’ll see…”

the non-committal response.

Breaking free

was a gambit

which didn’t work

as long as we really longed

to return

Lying awake at night

hearing the message

the echo of keys

the crush of the heart,

other sighs,

in this day,

the bar is set

just a little too wide

it’s all too effortless

to slip in and out

if I had known

how easily you would give me up

I would not have joined in

this fickle crime.

I read random books

eat tasteless food

whether it’s raining

or hot as hell


I am here

remembering the sound of you,

the catch in your voice,

like the turn of the tumbler

the whoosh

of the picked lock

I am here

waiting inside.

My cells

carry the memory

of screams and howls

and mass cheers

for public tortures and executions

for bodies twisted into hideous shapes

for emaciated sticks passing for human beings

for burned homes and gassed bodies

for uniformed men torching

our place of worship, our stores,

our books.

stealing silver and jewels,

terrorizing our children and mothers,

taking our boys to drown

tearing apart families

just as easily as limbs

scattering us to the winds

and ashes.

I can smell the stench of charred skin

feel the pain of the missing layer,

the scars of sin.

There is a Jewish proverb,

“What soap is to the body,

tears are for the soul.”

Shower, shower, shower.

Oh, my G-d, I cry out to you,

you have given me a gifted life,

a life of privilege

I have always known who I am

when I was interrupted

on a busy street, on a busy, cold day,

from walking a quick pace toward my neighborhood,

wearing my grandmother’s fur coat,

over (my own) mini-dress and fishnets,

I was asked,

“Excuse me, are you Jewish?”

I came to a standstill.

Strangers rushed past

as we stood on the sidewalk,

facing each other,

no one seemed to spare us a glance,

or paused to witness

the internal commotion.

“What’s it to you?” I sassed.

“The Rebbe wants to wish you

a Happy Chanukah!”

and with that, this young rabbi,

in black hat and garb,

whisked out a black rectangular box,

with a gold tin menorah inside.

I could not and did not hide my delight.

I rushed on, looking forward

to the nights ahead

of fierce light.

How fortunate my life is,

that I am handed a tin, gold menorah,

not a tin, gold Star of David.

Yet years would pass,

‘til I would find my way home.

It’s been ages

since I first embraced You.

been loved and teased,

held peals of laughter in my palms,

been gathered up in warm arms,

if I listen to the soft persuasion

of beguiling voices,

it is my freedom

that opens the door

to this false prison.

Still, even moving sideways

lying down, hiding, writing,

talking, we stumble forward praying,

getting to Grace.

So far, my heart beats strong,

resisting beatings and broken bones,

nerve damage,

all inclement weather.

I do not give up on You,

You do not give up on me.

COPYRIGHT 2011 Dana Janine Diamond  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See Copyright Notice pertaining to thejewishpoetess.wordpress.com


Weights and Measures



  by Dana Janine Diamond 

I’ve been methodically

weighing this out

measuring the pain

hard to see

in the darkness

fighting shadows

truth could be

shedding a new light

but we live

in a world

of lies


will truth set us free

how do we measure


If I measured

all the little deaths

I might be linking together

gum wrappers

for many miles

some say

Starbursts work just

as well

but I digress

from that which most

would just rather not face

and so I’m left

apparently much of center

to think

that truth matters

weighing the choice

between silence

and courage

just shut up girl

isn’t that the way

we keep the chain going

I’ve been carefully

weighing and measuring

the feeling of

being punched in the face

repeatedly by a man

wearing a yarmulke and tzitzis

holding my baby

punching me again

and again

and again

until my cheekbone is shattered

until my baby’s skull is nearly crashed into a wall

until my head covering is knocked off mine

so minor in comparison

the snap of the fist hitting flesh

held a breathless moment

of clarity

while he counted down

the seconds I had

to save our lives

Years gone by,

I’m carefully weighing

and measuring

which is worse

broken cheekbone

or broken heart

one man

or many

I remember his mother

coming to my bedroom

hours later

telling me to lie

to go away

so no one would know.

I called a holy man

to hear what I knew

deep down inside

he said speak the truth

and we’re alive

I suppose I’m still waiting

all these years later

for holiness to arise

for the answer

that should not have a question

this feels worse

I can’t breathe

in this darkness

I can’t raise

my child

to believe

she’s like gum under your shoe

a discarded wrapper easily tossed aside

I’m carefully

weighing and measuring

the noise, the whispers,

the voice of the soul

the stars in the sky

desperate to be heard

shh! a voice needs to be heard

don’t run with the herd

don’t run away

don’t stand down or back away

from facing the

truth is bold

and cannot be measured

just the tiniest match

will overcome darkness.

COPYRIGHT 2011 Dana Janine Diamond ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See Copyright Notice pertaining to thejewishpoetess.wordpress.com