Catherine Gonick


Growing up split,
half-half, to whom
should I belong?
No one could decide,
not father mother
Gentiles Jews
the world
not I…

The math of genes
is easy: Simply divide
to multiply; but
cultural math, I learned,

My two halves
did not easily make a whole,
more like a double
of nothing,
a difficult bastard twice over,
absent though present,
true though false,
too much and too wanting.

Only one thing was certain:
I was a daughter of Eve.




taught that in the ark
resides the word
and in the tabernacle body

a woman of words
listening like Moses
listened for HaShem

to steer her flesh 
of milk and honey dripping
through the letters of the nameless

comes to understand
why some simply carve
the names of lovers on their arms






Self-pity is the beginning of compassion.
—Miguel de Unamuno

Everyone hates self-pity.
—Joan Didion

There should be more of it
fat tears              dollars in the sand
of oversmiling noon

Why don’t we all fall down?

Even Christ could feel forsaken
let’s give him a break        send him out
for veggie burgers and
a beer with Buddha

We who cannot weep enough
will be fine here
babysat by saints
assigned to weep incessantly

their ocean of compassion
raised so little by our tears


[written before reading Rachel Barenblat’s Standing at the Edge in Soul-Lit and learning about Reb Shlomo’s parable]




Jesus never turned me on
Like altar boys' electric sleeves
Brushed by my waiting arm.
Angel sparks in darkness flew
To scour out the narrow arches
Where saints prayed at our sides,
The boys' black robes leaked gold
Into the aisle now burning toward the altar
Like a tongue of fire--
I rose to follow.
Burning for the boys through my ordinary clothes,
Through my love for their holy young days,
I let them take me as the bride they needed,
Knelt with open mouth to love the stranger
Jesus, though I knew--
He was not and never had been man,
Never would be man enough for me.
[Previously published in Boston Review.)



Catherine Gonick's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including Boston Review, Pivot, Crack the Spine, Ginosko, Amarillo Bay, Word Riot, and Sukoon. She was a winner of the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Prize for Poetry and a finalist in the National Ten-Minute Play Contest with the Actors Theatre of Louisville. As part of a startup company that turns organic waste into energy through green technology, she divides her time between New York and California, with occasional visits to Europe and the Middle East. She can be reached at