Matthew Lippman

The Lox Situation

Nine dollars for a quarter pound of smoked salmon, you got to be kidding me.
What’s a poor Jew to do?
Become a brown bear in Alaska
who has mastered the art of curing the fish, wears a kippa on Saturdays
no matter what the other grizzlies think?
Naw. I don’t think so.

I mean, how do you say Baruch Atah Adonai in grizzly language?
It’s too difficult for a dumb schmuck like me to figure out.
Even if I did,
what would my God think?

Then it occurs to me, God never put lox into the Torah.
That’s an assimilation dance my grandma Shirley,
of Brighton Beach,
figured out post-Depression,
the Bible shoved under the bed
where she thought God couldn’t see.

God could see and look, the price we pay--
lox at forty dollars a pound,
five dollar a bagel.
It’s blasphemy.

I’ll tell you what blasphemy is—that my wife walks to the temple
and I sit at home and watch college football
while my kid draws porcupines on the kitchen wall
with pork encased crayons.

I can’t figure any of this religious shit out. It used to be
Sunday morning brunch with a pound a nova. That’s how I prayed.
Now, I can’t even pay the phone bill. Hell with it.

I pick up the dial tone-less receiver and call, Shirley.
Bubbie, I say.
any chance you can hook me up with a half pound
of belly lox for the weekend?
But she’s dead
and I can’t tell if the voice I hear in my ear
is her fleshy baritone
or the old Jewish guy upstairs
who shows me the numbers etched into his arms
then gives me that look.
What? I say. What?


Matthew Lippman

Matthew Lippman is the author of three poetry collections, American Chew, winner of The Burnside Review Book Prize (Burnside Review Book Press, 2013), Monkey Bars (Typecast Publishing, 2010), and The New Year of Yellow, winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize (Sarabande Books, 2007). He is the recipient of the 2010 Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from The American Poetry Review.