The Student Literary Journal of Vermont State University

Noah Berlatsky

Poetry, Spring 2023

Diaspora Sestina | Apostrophe

Diaspora Sestina

Jews are always betraying someone.
When I don’t light candles I’m self-hating
and when I do, I’m that happy holiday Christ killer.
Jesus Christ, I say. And other small betrayals

Christ doesn’t answer, and neither does Israel.
My grandfather changed his name from Weingartner and became
a Christian Scientist for a bit, but now I’m vaccinated.
Another tradition abandoned like hamantashen
and Chinese food, both of which make me nauseated.
The past is a gas cramp and bile you travel
to the big city to fart open. Each eruption
is a guttural betrayal

like my Bar Mitzvah with all the grating
gimmels I didn’t understand
and didn’t believe. I should have read Tolkien
or some other Christian whose words meant something
to me, like Gollum my precious treacherous
heretic, crawling and spitting. Bite your finger off
and vomit it into the pit at God like hamantashen
slick with anaphylactic mucus and betrayal,

which falls up or down depending on your frame of reference.
White-haired Einstein, father-fucking Freud,
Marx, Adorno, all those skeptic Scrooges have hearts
five sizes too small for Whoville’s furor
or Jimmy Stewart, that seraphic anti-Shylock usurer.
Take that pound of flesh and give him the appellation
Neil Diamond Zimmerman Garfunkel Gorlich
like a rolling believer of betrayal.

Peripatetic, agnostic, endogamous and atomized
my people aren’t my people and my blood
is sanitized by shiksa, faithlessness, diaspora.
Love your neighbor as someone else. The volk
revolt and we revolt right back
with deracination as our one cool life hack.
Alien lizard people live among you
ouroboros puppets on self-pulled strings
drawing out of nowhere, out of history
some thing without a heart. You burned it
as a gift, and now we return it
empty as a nation
generous as betrayal.


Oh, the symptoms!
The inarticulateness and the thick pale blue
of my lungs and genitals! Sigh. The heart’s quiet lub-lub

and the contemplation of thumbs….
Of course, it wears on me, like the boots
you gave me still wearing me, as if I am a symptom

they don’t want to discuss. And worse, the disgust
of artifacts may be all the affection I accrue
—oh! What world is this where love

is a bore and only backgammon claims our attention!
Where desire scratches one languid ear and cannot be importuned!
Better to be a simple stone,

and not to gorge with bowels, umbrella, belly-button, tongue,
on the numb windows through which I watch you
depart. Nonetheless! I would rather remember the lub-lub

of the sky breathing near you than inhale medication
or refute the radiator’s dolorous clang. Oh, I won’t lose
my symptoms for I love my symptoms
when they are you and my heart, lub-lub.

Noah Berlatsky (he/him) tried being a poet some twenty years back and failed miserably. So he’s trying again. He’s been published recently in several venues, including New Feathers Anthology, Orchards Poetry Journal, and Five Fleas. Also he won an Honorable Mention in the 2022 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest. So that’s all been encouraging. He tweets too much at @nberlat and scribbles longer at Everything is Horrible!