The Take Archives
I want to get so close to God, I can
smell His breath. I can smell what angel
He cooked for supper last night. I want to nestle
in to His armpit hair. Get so close I’m inhaling
that got home at midnight because a little girl
was maybe dying scent. I want to get so close
to God, the angels start poking me in the elbow.
To be so deep in Him that everything else
is silence. The first father I’ve had
who has not died, God. I want to know everything.
I want to practice my breathing, my receiving
of all this light. I wish I could move
a pullout couch into His mouth
and just lie down there. I’m used to everything
being taken from me. This God will be all mine.
I want to get so close that He can keep me
safe inside his skin. In synagogue
we talk about the ruach, the spirit of God.
I just want Him. Not his spirit. Him.
I want my first home to be at his address.
You can find me in the hearth.
Bury me in the fireplace of his heart.
I hope that readers will get from this poem a sense of God that is playful and different. I was inspired by my Jewish upbringing and the Jewish sentiment I grew up with that God is everywhere. I yearned to know this God of my childhood and to imagine what it would be like to get close to Him. Through unconventional imagery, I aim to bring God closer to me in a way I can relate to.
From the Poetry Editors
It’s tempting to go lofty when writing about God. But Kwassman delivers a down-to-earth deity. She paints Him with armpit hair, cooking angels for supper. Her yearning for God’s shelter and constancy is like no other we’ve read: “I wish I could move a pullout couch in to his mouth…” While this is a highly personal poem, Kwassman’s casual language and form invites others to pray, to grieve as she does. Grounded in her Jewish faith, she’s written a Psalm for a new generation.
I WILL NEVER COMPLAIN ABOUT TAXIS AGAIN
when we leave / the fortress of El Morro at sunset /
a rainbow of / Havana-bound taxis curl / around
the gate, waiting / for los malditos turistas / to make up their minds
Ten pesos? Vamos, ten pesos
a fifties Ford pulls up beside us / top down / an American
classic / in the wrong country / wrong century / holding
the past and pre
awkwardly together like how / the taped-up door handle clings / to the panel
for dear life and / somehow / stays on
I think about Uber and cabs / with air conditioning back home
and I don’t / miss them
this one is soft / blue, a cloudless sky before it
bleeds / pink into balmy dusk / and then we’re flying
into the spell /of the swelling moon / and then we’re falling
into the Túnel de la Bahía / swallowed
by the womb / again / and then we disappear / into salt
air / Icarus would’ve lived / if he chose the night
I give up trying / to fix my hair / tangled in whispers / ghosts
of passengers past/ we emerge from the darkness / thrust
Havana unfurls / before us / twilight
bloom / dama de noche / a girl like me has no business
taking a / bride this beautiful
I was lucky enough to be able to travel with my partner to Cuba, and I wrote this poem shortly after we came back home. I couldn’t stop thinking about this night for some reason; it’s etched into my memory as the very definition of magic.
From the Poetry Editors
The line breaks in this masterful poem frame such raw and unashamed material. The piece practically commands the reader to examine each ‘stop.’ A favorite line is “a fifties Ford…/An American classic/ in the wrong country/ wrong century/…” Grace Lau glues time together while comparing cultural differences within her poem revolving around the concept of “pre-sent.” Lau also plays language to its strengths; setting the scene with authentic imagery that throws the reader between heaven and hell.