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Jade Shames  (email, MySpace)


About the Poet:

Jade is currently a student at the University of Pittsburgh, working on a degree in Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry.  He has been published in the literary review Pendulum, and has also received an award for his poem titled "Heaven".



The Saddle Maker


I have cousins in South Africa,

relatives in Russia, The Middle East,

Brazil, Philadelphia -

The wandering Jews

making footprints in different shades of earth.


My Dad told me the story, how

we all got here, in bits

of unused leather and scrap metal,

and made lives

far from Kiev and the house of the saddle maker.


My great great grandfather bought hide and steel,

and crafted carefully -

every stitch worked to perfection,

every bit of color soaked into the skin, the horn

of stag, polished, billet strap woven by hand.


When the saddle was ready, it was carried to the market.

A year’s work tightly knit and caressed.

The Blevins, the Swell, the signature Concho;

all fit for the ridding horse of a Czar -

all sold for enough to last another year.


One day, the market fell on Yom Kippur,

And my great great grandfather refused to go.

The Seder that night was quiet, and the saddle maker’s

many children exchanged stares, eating until painfully full,

plotting the upcoming year.



The Companion


There was once a mountain in my backyard,

Where I would roam and conquer,

That stretched out past my property,

And into a vast, desert wasteland.


My traveling companion was six years old

We met in kindergarten.

She wore a purple hair band

And white stockings

The day she asked me about God.


And my Dad told me that God was in everything.

He said that God made things alive.

He said that God was everywhere.


And she told me that if God were everywhere,

That we could find him,

And I believed her.


On the mountain out back,

We walked slowly.

Our arms stretched out.

Our fingers spread and poised.

We closed our eyes.

And waited to touch him.


“Come quick” she said.

“Right here!”

I ran over to her -

Her fingers froze in a spot in the air.


Surrounded by miles of grey trees and dead grass,

I put my fingers near hers,

And struggled to feel what she did,

But I couldn’t close my eyes to concentrate,

I couldn’t take them off of hers,

As they glowed a sharp green and exploded,

Like a rainforest. Like a holy land.

And she smiled her little, wonderful, secret smile as she spoke,

“I found him.”



Tikkun Olam



Dad walked through the front door

As if he did not live in our house

Wearing his leather jacket

That was thin and tan in places

And always smelled like the wind.


He washed some dishes

Because my mom hated to

And he told me to do my homework.

Then, he sat next to me

And promised that all of this was temporary.


I can’t remember if I believed him

For a year, or a day, or just for that moment,

Or never,

But soon he truly did not live in our house.


And when I say I forgive you, Dad,

It does not mean I forgive you all at once.

Like everything that followed

That moment fell to pieces

And I am still finding them

In me, or Mom, or you.


The way I press my hands together until my joints ache

when I’m alone,

The stained glass Yin Yang in the corner of the window in my mom’s living room collecting dust,

The way you don’t do favors for women you really like



These pieces cannot be glued back together

Or ground down into dust that dissolves into the wind on your jacket.

These are pieces that remain pieces.

And for each one I find

I forgive you.


Maybe it will take years

But I promise, I will find them all.





I was late for class again,

But I still made my way leisurely through the snow

Just knocking quivering patches of ice and examining their size and shape

As they fell into little clear puddles

Of melting glass.


And that’s when I saw the swastika

Drawn with heavy boots on the great white lawn

Like a massive broken “X” or a lost puzzle piece,

Only just for me to keep quiet -

Only none of these.


For a moment, I didn’t want to be a Jew anymore,

So that the Nazi thing in the snow would have no power

Over me and my family, and I could just erase it and be displeased.

But I can’t explain why I couldn’t simply knock it into powder

Like I did before with my tiny, shiny, new boots.





After death,

You find yourself in a little room with a door and a sofa,

And a TV set with a remote control,

And you sit on the sofa,

And you let out a sigh,

Relaxed and exhausted from dying,

You recline,

And press the power button on the remote control,

To see what channels they get here,

In heaven,


The TV shows a fetus in a womb,

There are voices from outside talking about names they like,

The fetus kicks around a bit and a shadow is cast on it,

In the shape of a woman’s hand,

“I remember that,” you say,

You watch this fetus move and begin to hear,

Until one day, you see your mother,

And she holds you,

“I remember that, too,” you say,

You keep watching and remembering,

You cry and laugh and feel proud,

You watch all of your most joyful moments,

And all of your most painful moments,

You see yourself do foolish things,

And understand why you did them,

You see yourself do admirable things,

And smile, and a lifetime passes and you see yourself die,

And you realize that what you just saw was the greatest story you had ever seen,


You change the channel,

And once again, see a fetus in a womb,

But this one is different,

It is the life of your mother,

And through her eyes you watch her entire life,

You cry and laugh and feel proud all over again,

You watch her for a lifetime,

And you understand her completely,

And you thank her,

And you forgive her,

And you watch her die,

You watch her enter a room identical to yours,

You walk through the door of your room and enter hers,

She had just finished watching your life,

The two of you embrace,

It feels like the release of dying,

It feels like the release of being born,

Then you both sit back down and watch another life,

And at the end of each life a door is opened,

And more people come and embrace and sit together to watch more lives,


You watch the lives of the ones that hurt you,

And you forgive them,

You watch the lives of the ones you hurt,

And they forgive you,

And once again, there is only love between everyone in a little TV room,

Where you watch lives together,

And eons pass,

The lives of acquaintances,

The lives of strangers,

You realize that your life affected the course of theirs,

And theirs affected yours,

And you meet for the first time in a little TV room and sit together,

And everyone cries together,

And everyone laughs together,

And everyone, eventually, is filled with pride,

As more lives pass,

You notice that you have yet to see the life of someone truly evil,

When there is only understanding,

Evil does not exist,


Somehow, everyone who has ever lived and died fits comfortably,

In a little TV room,

And together you watch the future lives,

The lives of sons and daughters,

The lives of grandsons and great granddaughters,

Together you experience life after life,

And mountains crumble,

And stars fade,

In seconds.