ISSN 1551-8086
return to home search for a contributing writer

seach for poems by title

archive of previous issues submissions information mailing list online store links to other interesting sites contact us  
   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Hannah Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Nicole Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Veronica An
   Zack Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Amy Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Kevin Berger
   Lawrence Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Craig Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Jarvis Black
   Heitham Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Adam Levon Brown
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Tony Bush
   Zachary C. Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Dana Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Neil Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Phil Clark
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Terry Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Merrill Cole
   Karen E. Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J de Salvo
   J. de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Marvin Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   t. joseph dunn
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Ron Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amélie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Vince Garofalo
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   William Harris
   Matt Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jessica Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   David Howard
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor D. Infante
   Victor Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Lois P. Jones
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Tao Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gene Justice
   Gary Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Raud Kennedy
   Bernard Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Ashley King
   Robert S King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Thomas Krämer
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Marie Lecrivain
   Anne Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Emma Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Anthony Mason
   Lee Mason
   Hyatt Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   David McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Robert John Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Carl Moore
   Greggory Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Toti O'Brien
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Nina Orlovskaya
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Luke Prater
   Kristena Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Rina Rose
   Emily Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
   Alison Ross
   James Robert Rudolph
   Walter Ruhlmann
   Gina MarySol Ruiz
   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
   Ashley Rumery
   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
   Sonya Sabanac
   Howard Sage
   Russell Salamon
   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
   John Saunders
   Lorraine Sautner
   Rati Saxena
   Iftekhar Sayeed
   Frances Schiavina
   Kim Schroeder
   Carol Schwalberg
   Peter Schwartz
   Ken Scott
   Sondra L. Scott
   David Scriven
   Justin Scupine
   LB Sedlacek
   Lisa Segal
   Anthony Seidman
   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
   John W Sexton
   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
   Tom Sheehan
   Jake Sheff
   Steve Shickman
   Nancy Shiffrin
   June Shiitake
   Ferrari Silverpowder
   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
   Apryl Skies
   Knute Skinner
   Sam Skow
   Ratpack Slim
   Lee Sloca
   Carol Smallwood
   Clinton Smith
   Danielle Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
   Jeanne Marie Spicuzza
   Richard Spuler
   Matina Stamatakis
   Jan Steckel
   Julia Stein
   Eric Steineger
   Carl Stillwell
   Bruce Stirling
   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Dee Sunshine
   Mani Suri
   John Duncan Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Mark Taylor
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Jonathan Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Evan Traiger
   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
   r.k. wallace
   Evan Walsh
   Sharieff Walters
   John Wariner
   Deborah L Warner
   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
   Justin Weiler
   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Leigh White
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   J.T. Whitehead
   Claire Williams
   John Sibley Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
   Robert D. Wilson
   Jessica Wilson
   Amye Wilson
   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
   Joseph Wistren
   Wayne Wolfson
   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
   Abigail Wyatt
   John Yamrus
   Müesser Yeniay
   Julie Yi
   Gregory T. Young
   Britney Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
   home
   poems
   archive
   submissions
   events
   calendar
   message board
   store
   links
   contact
   
Laura Bellotti
February 2005
   

 

Fighting the Bulls

    Four-year-old Avi, the kid who sings at the top of his lungs instead of talking, is at it again. “I am Avi, I am Avi! You are the people, you are the people…” It’s his own made-up melody, but it resembles Diana Ross’s Baby Love, which even Avi’s father is way too young to remember. “You are the people, people, people in my shul, shul, shul!” Avi is standing beneath the flaming red bougainvillea that separates his apartment building from T.J.’s. “Now everybody listen—to my voice, to my song.” The kid bobs back and forth as he sings, the way grown up Orthodox Jews do when they pray. One of the lonely alley cats rubs up against his pant leg, but Avi doesn’t break his concentration. “Listen and be quiet, be quiet to yourself.” He closes his eyes and holds his second finger to his rosy-red mouth, “Shhhhhh!” Then he blasts away in Hebrew: “Va-ani tefilati lecha, Adonai, et ratzon!”

    Off into one of his singing trances, Avi doesn’t notice his sixteen-year-old neighbor, T.J., standing on his balcony in boxer shorts staring at the clouds and drinking orange juice, his brown beard and long wavy brown hair a tangled mess. T.J. lives with his mom and dad in the building next door to Avi, but not in Avi’s world. He looks down at the ecstatic singing tot who’s dressed in a size four three-piece suit identical to a man’s and wonders what kind of psychic earthquake will finally come along to crush the kid’s puffed-up sense of himself. Before T.J. got whacked by the Hollywood poseurs, he felt just as powerful as little Wonderboy down there—powerful enough to believe he could make his father’s dreams materialize.

    But the little kid looks good, no doubt about that. Avi’s silk tie is knotted perfectly, not like the baby clip-ons most little boys wear. And he wears his wide-brimmed black hat that is exactly like his father’s as if he deserves the respect it usually brings. T.J. has seen how Avi’s blonde curls and rabbi-brown eyes melt hearts. His bravura voice is another story. He’s been singing since before he could walk, and the kid’s got Pavarotti volume going for him big time. It was cute for a while, when he was a toddler and the songs were mere muffled words and you couldn’t help but admire the lilting, perfect pitch melodies coming out of his baby boy mouth. But at four, he already needs a music hall to contain the voice that he refuses to rein in.

    “VA’ANI TEFILATI LECHA, ADONAI, ET RATZON!”


    “Hey—cut it out down there! Can’t you make that kid shut up?” The neighbor whose window is closest to the bougainvillea slams it shut.

    “Aviram, quiet! People are still sleeping!” His mother calls down from their upstairs window, making a stab at quieting her son, knowing it’s as futile as trying to silence the squawking crows. For Avi, every day is an occasion to belt it out, no matter who the hell is sleeping.

    “VA’ANI TEFILATI LECHA, ADONAI, ET RATZON!”


    From the other planet of his balcony, T.J. can tune out the kid’s loud singing if he wants to. Living in such close proximity to your neighbors you either get riled or wall yourself off. Avi is just one of the hordes of Orthodox kids who tear around on their scooters and tricycles and drip ice cream all over T.J.’s speed bike that’s chained to the straggly palm tree between the two apartment buildings. This morning, though, Avi’s mini-man suit and cocky little macho voice piss T.J. off. What makes baby rabbi so damn sure he commands the world? And when’s he gonna fall off that perfect little throne of his?

    “VA’ANI TEFILATI LECHA, ADONAI, ET RATZON!”

    “Shut up! It’s Saturday morning!” Another neighbor slams his window shut, startling the stray cat who’s napping near the flowerpots.

    “Hey don’t worry, Avi,” T.J. mutters sarcastically to the singing midget as he heads back inside his apartment. “They used to tell Bob Dylan to shut up too.”




                   * * * *



    “So, T.J., how many miles are you up to?” Avi’s mom is folding laundry on the steps of their apartment. She’s the first one up except for T.J., who couldn’t sleep and is headed to Roxbury Park for a Sunday morning run.

    “Only about ten or twelve. No big deal.”

    “Sounds impressive to me. Are you on the track team?” Avi’s mother is a Torah teacher at the Orthodox high school for girls down the street, and his father is a rabbi at a small shul on Pico. They’re both in their twenties and already have three kids.

    “Nah—not my thing.”

    T.J. thinks Avi’s mom is one of the cheeriest women on the block. She radiates a hard-to-believe but not-fake contentment. Unlike the other over-worked Orthodox moms with big families, she hardly ever yells at her kids or loses her temper. T.J. wonders what her secret is, because whatever it is, she hasn’t shared it with her husband, who wears a permanent expression of exasperation. Except when he’s listening to Avi sing. And then his face breaks into pure joy bordering on idol worship.

    T.J. has no idols. He has distrusted pop culture since he was two, when he figured out that TV was just something little kids and their dads sit in front of so they can fall asleep. Because his dad has always been involved with rock music and films, T.J. became jaded by it all at an early age. He outgrew rap at nine, action films at ten, MTV at twelve.

    But that didn’t mean he completely divorced himself from Hollywood. It was always a father-and-son thing for him and Rafe to read The LA Times box office tallies together each morning, assessing the fickle state of the industry. For as long as T.J. can remember, his family has been waiting for one of Rafe’s scripts to sell so that they can finally buy a house. But T.J. realized years ago what a long shot his father’s dream was—even though they live only blocks from where movies, music and celebrities are developed and packaged. While Pico-Robertson is its own foreign country, it’s in the shadow of Fox, MGM, Sony, and ICM, where T.J. has gone with his dad on numerous occasions to drop off scripts that might have been their ticket out of P-Ro.

    T.J. tried to earn that ticket for his dad last year. He wrote a script—a teen drag-race movie, exactly what Hollywood was craving at the time. At fifteen, T.J. pitched it to agents on his own. They loved his concept—but what they really loved was that the script was written by a teenager. “That’d be a killer marketing hook,” was their general take. T.J. took more meetings than his father ever had in all the years he’d been sending out scripts. But in the end the fat cats nixed T.J. in favor of a well-known entity. No big surprise.

    Now T.J. never goes to movies, shuns radio and TV, and has time for only three musicians: Dylan, Mozart and Lou Reed. He finds kids his age naïve for getting sucked in by the copycat media and the whole you-can-make-your-dream-come-true-if-you-try-hard-enough thing.

    “HE NAY MAH AH TOV, SHEVET ACHEEM GOM YAHAD
!
    HE NAY MAH AH TOV, SHEVET ACHEEM GOM YAHAD!”

    T.J. is in the middle of a final stretch as Avi strides solemnly down the stairs crooning his tune in full voice.

    “HE NAY MAH AH TOV, SHEVET ACHEEM GOM YAHAD!”

    “Ever heard of Mozart?” T.J. shouts, in order to be heard above the booming voice that’s giving him a second-degree headache. “He started out real young too, just like you.” Avi’s mom grins, flattered by the comparison, even though T.J. said it mockingly. Avi looks past them and heads for his pulpit beneath the bougainvillea.

    “HE NAY MAH AH TOV, SHEVET ACHEEM GOM YAHAD!

    HE NAY MAH AH TOV, SHEVET ACHEEM GOM YAHAD!”

    Avi doesn’t hear anything but his own voice when he sings. He loves how it echoes in his head and in his chest so that he feels like he’s flying. When he opens his mouth and the songs come out, he doesn’t hear his parents or the neighbors or the teenager boy T.J. with the big brown beard and the long, wiggly hair that falls all into his face, the boy who’s running away now.

    “HE NAY MAH AH TOV, SHEVET ACHEEM GOM YAHAD!”



                   * * *



    On his way to Roxbury Park, T.J. runs past the landmarks of his childhood. Golden Apple Comics where he graduated from Ghostbusters to Ninja Turtles to Anime when he was four, six, nine; Beverlywood Bakery, the only non-kosher bakery in P-Ro, where he and his friends bought sprinkle cookies on their way home from elementary school; King David Computers where the Israeli owner cursed T.J.’s dad under his breath for being severely technologically challenged; and The Milky Way, Steven Spielberg’s mom’s fancy kosher restaurant where T.J.’s parents took him to celebrate his first meeting with a Hollywood agent. All the kids T.J. used to hang out with in P-Ro have long since moved to better neighborhoods, but T.J. doesn’t mind that he’s still here among the flashy lower class Persians and the argumentative Israelis and the always-celebrating-some-holiday-or-other Orthodox Jews. The wackiness of his neighborhood makes him forget the strain of putting up with the irrelevant propaganda they try to stuff him with at high school and the eager-to-suck-it-right-up kids he has to fake getting along with.

    Turning onto a residential street, T.J. jogs past small and medium-sized stucco houses with sukkahs in their yards—in celebration of the holiday Succot. Some of the little huts are more elaborate than others—ranging from simple plastic-sheeted walls and paper daisy chain decorations to wood constructed shelters with fancy purple velvet walls, Chinese lanterns, Christmas tree lights, fold-out Jewish stars, and multi-colored paper mache fruits. T.J. thinks it would be fun to eat in a sukkah for a week if you were a kid. Like a cross between camping out and living inside a giant Christmas tree. Once a long time ago, when he was five or six, his mom decided they should have a sukkah on their balcony—“Hey, why can’t we celebrate the journey to the Promised Land like everyone else around here?” —and they made a makeshift hut, decorating it with handmade cut-outs of pears and pineapples and bananas. T.J. remembers spending a rainy day coloring all the decorations with his mom and being excited about having a picnic in their little sukkah on the balcony that night. But during their first dinner under it, the know-it-all little girl down the street whose dad is a rabbi from Ireland of all places strolled by to tell them that it wasn’t a real sukkah because for a real one you needed four walls, and theirs only had three. Like that’s gotta be a big deal, T.J. thought. It’s an ancient symbol, not some architecture assignment. She was probably just pissed because she knew T.J.’s dad isn’t Jewish. In fact, he’s an Italian Catholic Buddhist. But T.J. figured his dad knew as much about God as Little Miss I’m-a-Real-Jew-and-You’re-Not’s father anyway. Big shot rabbis, big shot Hollywood agents—it’s all the same con. They rule the game even if some outsider comes along with the deeper stuff.

    At Roxbury Park, T.J. sees some kids from school but avoids them by doing his laps around the outer edge of the park where they won’t notice him. Where is Buddha anyway, when you need him to make you invisible?



                   * * *



    On his way back from the park, T.J. spies Avi running around the apartment courtyard with nothing on—a jarring departure from the dressed-to-kill rabbinical look. Avi is giggling and singing and taunting his mom as she’s trying to catch him into a towel. He darts in and out of the patches of sunlight, playing tag with his shadow.

    “Did you make ten miles?” Avi’s mom treats T.J. almost like an equal. Actually, she’s only eleven years older than he is, as T.J.’s mom pointed out once. Which T.J. thinks is pretty bizarre. She’s so mom-like he can’t picture her ever being sixteen. She has a young face and pretty green eyes, but the headscarves and long skirts don’t help.

    “Actually a bit further today... Hey Avi, where’s your clothes?”

    Avi doesn’t look at T.J. but stops his giggling and running around long enough to sing out in his booming tenor voice, “THE RABBIS ARE NAKED!”

    T.J. and Avi’s mom look at each other, wondering where the other nude religious leaders might be hiding.

    “I SAID, THE RABBIS ARE NAKED. DIDN’T YOU HEAR ME?”
    Avi’s delivery is as close to Wagnerian as a preschooler can get.

    It has never occurred to T.J. to take Avi’s whole life-is-an-opera thing more seriously. Ever since Avi’s family moved in, they’ve melted into the crazy P-Ro environment and T.J. has taken “the voice” for granted. But now he wonders why Avi never talks without singing—or if he’s got some kind of emotional problem.

    “Rabbis plural?” Avi’s mother says, looking to T.J. for his input.

    “Maybe it’s the royal we,” he offers.

    “Hm…You think I have a little monarch on my hands?” She shoots T.J. a conspiratorial smile.

    Avi sneaks in and snatches the towel from his mom but instead of wrapping up in it begins to do a kind of bullfighter’s dance, using the towel as a prop. “The rabbis are naked, are naked, are naked!” Now his tune is less opera and more eighties pop.

    “The rabbis are going to have a time out if they don’t give their mother the towel by the time I count to three. See ya, T.J.”

    T.J. takes the hint and walks off, pondering the connection between naked rabbis and bullfighters.

    “One…two…I mean it, Avi—Oh, hey, T.J! You doing anything for dinner?

    You wanna eat with us in the sukkah?”

    T.J. turns to see Avi bullfight-dancing with his towel. His family and Avi’s don’t really socialize beyond neighborly conversation, so he’s a bit thrown by the invitation. Avi now expands his dance with a chorus of the ever-popular…

    “HE NAY MAH AH TOV, SHEVET ACHEEM GOM YAHAD!”

    “Sure.”

    “THREE! Okay, Avi. Get upstairs. See you at six, T.J.!”



                   * * *



    Avi’s family’s sukkah is built on the small stucco balcony of their upstairs apartment. Funky but functional. The paper decorations made by Avi and Simchi with their mother’s help—crayoned fruits and Hebrew letters with glitter and sequins stuck on—give it a homey look. And the palm fronds forming the roof could definitely let the stars shine through—as sukkah-building rules dictate—if there were any in L.A. But eating in it is a more serious affair than T.J.’s casual sukkah experience as a six-year-old. Before they sit down to dinner, the family recites a prayer as they all take turns ritualistically washing their hands. Then Avi’s father says a series of blessings over the food and gives a lengthy explanation to T.J. about the basis of the holiday.

    T.J. pretends to be interested even though he’s floating above the surface of the rabbi’s words. Tuning in just long enough to hear the phrase, wandering Jews, T.J. thinks about how little he’s wandered in his life. P-Ro is the only home he’s known and his limited travels have been with his parents—aside from a few backpacking trips with his cousins. He wonders how it would feel to wander far away from everything that’s familiar. To lose who you think you are and morph into someone you don’t know.

    Seated between Simchi, who is whispering five-year-old secrets into his ear, and baby Esther, who’s baby-talking to him in a voice loud enough to rival Avi’s while throwing bits of food down from her high chair, T.J. barely notices Avi until he breaks into song—which he does in between mouthfuls. Celebration in the sukkah, celebration, celebration. Eat with us, sing with us, eat with us, sing! Another made-up melody, probably based on some old Lionel Ritchie song.

    T.J. realizes that Avi is checking him out to make sure he’s listening, so he tries to nod approvingly at the appropriate moments. Sing, celebrate, dance around naked—what does it all amount to anyway? T.J. asks silently. If you only knew how all that little kid joy is going to come crashing down on you in a few years you wouldn’t have so much to sing about—on Shabbos or Sukkot or any other fucking day.

    “You will sing, you will sing, you will sing a Sukkah song.”

    The persistent big-little voice, the demanding trio of kids, the claustrophobic dinner table—And why did I accept this invitation? T.J. asks himself, wondering if he’ll make it through the evening without keeling over. Maybe it’s time to focus on some grown-up conversation.

    “So, what did the Jews back in Jesus’ day have against him?” T.J. asks Avi’s parents, who are enjoying the momentary freedom from their children, thanks to him. Avi’s dad gets a pained expression as he passes T.J. the challah. Then he gives his wife a Why do I even have to explain these things? look.

    “There were a lot of men like Jesus then, claiming to have all the answers,” the rabbi tells T.J.

    “But he did have a lot of good answers, didn’t he? About love being more important than all the rules?” T.J. remembers hearing this from his dad, the Catholic Buddhist.

    “Because God loves us we follow His rules,” Avi’s father answers, with his characteristic unruffled exasperation. “It’s about showing love for God. Doing what He commands.”

    “Hm…Yeah, I guess that makes sense,” T.J. says, although it makes no sense to him at all. How the hell does anyone know what God commands? Because some old guys wrote it down thousands of years ago and called it a Bible, that’s supposed to be the deep dark truth?

    “I like the question, though, T.J.” Avi’s mom passes him the casserole of spicy meat, beans and stewed fruit. “Jesus was definitely spreading new ideas about how to practice our religion.”

    Avi’s father rolls his eyes.

    “We’ll have to do a bit more studying about Christianity, won’t we, honey,” Avi’s mom continues, ”—so we can discuss this further with T.J.?”

    Avi’s dad shoots his wife an in-my-next-lifetime look and helps his daughter spoon out more casserole. “Take more meat, Simchi. Don’t just eat the fruit.”

    “My dad told me the reason Jesus went against the whole kosher thing was that it’s more important what comes out of your mouth than what goes into it. Did you ever hear that?” T.J. has no idea why he has brought this up—Am I being an idiot or just a punk?

    Avi’s father gets the pained look again. “It’s not a question of either or—Simchi take more meat—both are important.”

    T.J. appreciates the rabbi’s short answers—unlike his parents who turn every dinner table discussion into a prime time debate.

    “HA-VA, V-NEEV SU-KAH!

    BA TE-SHEV K-MO MAL-KAH!”

    “A song he learned for Sukkot,” Avi’s mom explains to T.J. He’s now trying to diplomatically pay attention to Simchi, who has just asked him why his hair’s in a pony tail; pick up the baby’s cup, which she keeps throwing down; while still listening to Avi’s song and his mom’s explanation of it. Do these people always talk and sing and throw things and ask questions at the same time? Jesus Fucking Christ.

    “HA-VA, V-NEEV SU-KAH!

    BA TE-SHEV K-MO MAL-KAH!”

    “So how come you never got Bar Mitzvahed? Your dad opposed to it?” The rabbi has decided to help T.J. out and gets up to pick up the baby’s cup this time.

    “Nah—he would have been fine with it. I’m just not really into organized religion.”

    “HA-VA, V-NEEV SU-KAH!

    BA TE-SHEV K-MO MAL-KAH!”

    “You prefer disorganized religion?”

    “HA-VA, V-NEEV SU-KAH!”

    “Yeah—that’s a good one!” T.J. likes the rabbi’s bluntness.

    “BA TE-SHEV K-MO MAL-KAH!

    BA TE-SHEV K-MO MAL KAAAAH!”

    The pre-school lounge singer who won’t quit is another story. Isn’t it time someone told the rabbi and his wife to consult a child psychologist or a pediatric brain surgeon? What’s with this kid? T.J. had thought the dinner would be a mind-freeing break from his caveman ritual—if he weren’t here he’d be sealed off in his room listening to the holy three —but Avi is starting to seriously get on his nerves. How do his parents carry on like everything’s normal when they’re being blasted by a wacked-out, mini-human jukebox they can’t turn off?



                   * * *



    Again T.J. can’t sleep. Avi’s pumped-up, one-man choir gave him a raging headache that the September heat is making worse. He flings off his bedclothes and heads out to the balcony where at least there’s a slight breeze. Pushing the plastic chaise lounge against the outer wall, he goes back inside to get his sheets to block out the apartment lights from next door. Draping the sheets to make himself a little tent, T.J. realizes it’s almost a sukkah. All he needs is decoration. He heads inside again, grabs some safety pins and an issue of Martha Stewart Living, and tears out some artistic close-ups of pears and pomegranates. Take that, little tyrannical daughter of an Irish rabbi!

    T.J.’s sleep is fitful, but he likes waking up to the noisy crows and Martha Stewart pears.



                   * * *



    T.J. ignores the taunts at school and walks across the quad in his own righteous fog. His full beard has been growing since he was fifteen so he’s used to the Moses label. He knows his wild man hair and bushy Jewish-Italian face intimidate some and infuriate others, and he tells himself he’s fine with that.

    “Hey, Mo, how’s it growin’?”

    “Trapped any bugs in there, man?”

    T.J. flashes a peace sign and walks past his fellow eleventh graders. He plays his role, they play theirs. It’s all just a dream, a vacuum, a scheme…as Dylan once put it. He heads for the bench at the far end of the lunch area, sits down and takes a swig from his water bottle.

    It’s been almost two years since he staked out this spot. Now it’s his. No one else dares to intrude—with the exception of Manuel, the janitor who comes by almost everyday.

    “How’s it going, T.J.” he asks now, leaning on his broom with a crooked smile.

    “It’s going great, how ‘bout you?” T.J. says, taking a bite of his sandwich and knowing Manuel can see through his answer.

    “I’m doing pretty good, my friend, pretty darn good.”

    And T.J. can see that he is. So what’s Manuel’s red-hot secret? Is he really as fucking content as he seems? Maybe he has a gorgeous wife at home who plays Spanish guitar and serenades him in the nude after work.

    “You sure there’s nothing bothering you?”

    “Nah—I’m fine.”

    Just fine—other than feeling that I can’t take one more day of this mindless quiz show—and have nowhere to escape to except my cave and this fucking bench. Ringing in his head is Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side.

    DOOT, DA DOOT, DA DOOT, DA DOOT DOOT

    Last week it was Dylan’s Not Dark Yet, the week before Mozart’s Piano Concerto #5 in B-flat.

    “You take care now, T.J." Manuel pats him on the back and walks away, and for some reason T.J. feels like a three-year-old whose mom has just dropped him off at preschool. What the hell is happening to him? Is he actually going to break down and bawl in the middle of the lunch area? Oh, Jesus.

    He gets up from his private bench and throws the barely eaten sandwich into the trash. Just take a few deep breaths, he tells himself. Get it together, brother. He breathes deeply and forces himself to walk to his next class.

    Kids are staring at him funny, but maybe they always do and the fog has just protected him until now. He sees Marina, the pretty Latina girl from his history class who seems sympathetic, as if she might even know what the hell he’s suffering from.

    DOOT DA DOOT, DA DOOT, DA DOOT DOOT

    Doot da doot, da doot, da doot doot

    Doot da doot, da doot, da doot doot

    Lou Reed’s riff is softer now, fading away in fact, and in its place is a strange melodic buzzing in T.J.’s head and down his shoulders. It’s a sensation that excites him, thrills him—in spite of his exploding brain. Keep breathing, you’re almost to class, Teej. The buzzing is now a distinct musical phrase in a minor key. T.J. has never heard this phrase playing on his inner soundtrack before—but it’s wildly familiar. Don’t lose it now, brother, or you’re a goner. It builds in his head from a buzzing to a blare, and now he feels it through his entire body. He has an intense sensation of excitement, like when he was little and looking forward to his first train trip—all the way to Union Station he couldn’t sit still in the back seat of his parents’ car because he was so intent on what it would feel like to be racing down the tracks in a shiny silver bullet. It was like a small bird was trapped inside his chest and the wings were part of his own body. Would he fly down the tracks? Would he ever be able to stop?

    He sees the door to his classroom and walks in. Then slides behind his desk in the back of his math class and waits for the music inside his head to quiet down. He’s breathing weird and the gay kid sitting next to him asks if he’s okay. T.J. nods but the sound in his head is building so that he can no longer hear what’s going on in the classroom. Breathe, boy, breathe..

    And then he finally recognizes the music. And he laughs in a way he’s never laughed before, from deep in his gut. Am I sitting in class or am I flying above it? What he hears, of course, is the ridiculous forte voice from Saturday morning: VA’ANI TEFILATI LECHA, ADONAI, ET RATZON!

    Stroking his year-old beard, he tries to tune-in to all the ancient-sounding words encircling his brain. VA’ANI TEFILATI LECHA, ADONAI, ET RATZON! But it’s not the words—in fact it’s not even the music, as mesmerizing as the melody is. It’s the voice—the bravura voice of the defenseless bullfighter. Scared shitless but taunting the beast anyway.

    “T.J.—are you with us?” The math teacher has just asked him for the definition of an indistinguishable permutation. T.J. barely hears the question, as if it’s been whispered through a long, echoing tunnel.

    “No, actually I’m not with you.”

    The snickering laughter of his fellow students doesn’t faze T.J., who doesn’t want to interrupt what he’s now hearing.

    “Well then maybe you shouldn’t be here.”

    VA’ANI TEFILATI LECHA, ADONAI, ET RATZON! rumbles through his brain, and T.J. puts every ounce of his being into stifling the loudest laugh he’s ever let out.

    “Perhaps I shouldn’t.” He gets up, leaving his books on the desk, and walks out of the classroom. He barely hears the applause that follows him out the door and would never interpret it as praise anyway. As he pushes open the swinging hallway doors to the wild red bottlebrush trees outside, he finally lets the laugh explode.



                   * * *



    “Now everybody listen, listen to my birds. Listen to my wind, to my trees, to my bushes.”

    Mini-rabbi is still at it, dressed up in proper suit, tie and hat—even though it’s not Shabbos.

    “Hey, Avi.” T.J. feels lost as he waves at his little neighbor. He’s not used to being home this early on a weekday, and it feels weird. He’s been waiting to blow it big time at school. Now he’s succeeded without even trying. He made his big exit—the laughing breakdown felt great—now what?

    “VA’ANI TEFILATI LECHA, ADONAI, ET RATZON

    Avi stops his aria and looks straight into T.J.’s wooly face.

    “I don’t understand the words, Avi, but I like your voice,” T.J. says without an ounce of sarcasm.

    Avi parts his mouth as if he’s about to say something, but words don’t come out. Even in the silence, the little kid’s fear-defying voice still rings in T.J.’s head. T.J. looks at Avi and sees himself a long time ago, commanding this same patch of torn up grass. In his Ninja Turtle outfit, wooden sword in hand, he was prepared to fight heroically against the fear, the fat cats, even the failures of his father.

    “VA’ANI TEFILATI LECHA, ADONAI, ET RATZON!”

    “I’m with you, Avi,” T.J. says. “Let’s go fight the bulls.”

    “VA’ANI TEFILATI LECHA, ADONAI, ET RATZON!

    VA’ANI TEFILATI LECHA, ADONAI, ET RATZON!”


copyright 2004 Laura Bellotti