I Love

I love intimacy, and accept 
that concealment springs from it
some partition of the heart 
closing as it opens up. 
Oh we will die soon enough. 
Not enough can be said 
for a redemptive caress. 
How good it’s been to slide back 
the heart’s hood awhile, how fortunate
there’s a heart and a covering for it, 
and that whatever is still warm 
has a chance. 

Stephen Dunn, “Loves”

Poets and songwriters always express that split second emotion or that lifetime sentiment so much better than the rest of us can. We site songs and lyrics to express what we can’t or to remember what the other tried to express and even though we don’t fully get it we are still listening and still processing it years and months later.


Our thoughts form the world

I arrived home even though Shiyara really wanted us to stay in America. She loved New York.

I would love to live in New York again for a few months at a time but as I told Shiyara, we would still need to go home to Casablanca to at least pack our things.

We returned to our friends who just had their first baby and he is as beautiful as his mother. They confessed they would be going back to America within the year. I will be losing my best friend and it hasn’t let me sleep at all but as I watch MasterChef and drink tea I noticed some words of wisdom written on the paper attached to a string, “Our thoughts are forming the world.” This is what I said to myself an hour earlier as I tossed and turned trying to sleep thinking of my friend leaving.

We can’t control the outcome of most anything in life but we can control how we see the world and it changes everything. This is what I came back to Morocco to do. Finish all that I started and sit with the discomfort of learning what I need to learn, going through the difficulties, be patient so I can move on in due time from this stage of evolution literally and metaphorically. So for tonight I pray that all the things she and I want for our families come true and that no more rest is lost worrying over what may or might arrive because of course no matter how painful or abandoned we will feel, we can handle it.


Pessah in Casablanca

The best part of the seder is being surrounded by family, anyone’s family especially dysfunctional ones. I love the noise and the bustle of children playing and adults chattering and everyone having an opinion and where you don’t need to be polite anymore because you are with your crazy noisy big ridiculous family. I am sitting with an exes family and even though we are finished being a couple, his family to me is not finished. If we married people for their families I would have married lots of men. Families here remind me of my own big family with 5 sisters and an older brother and an aura of beautiful chaos.



The Rabbi's children - Casablanca

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The Rabbi’s children – Casablanca

The Rabbi's children - Casablanca



I enter my home and I yell out “Shiyara!!!!” and she yells back “Mama!!” The pitter patter of her running feet match my heart. I wait for her big smile to appear around the corner! I throw my purse down and jump down to kneel on the floor, like I am asking everyday to marry an angel, to open my arms and wait for her to rush in. The seconds don’t race as fast as my heart and it skips…for her. “Come come come!!!!!” She makes it to me and I can only grab on for a split second and then she’s gone.

Without her there would be no home and no where to return to. She is my home.

I went to visit a woman in a beautiful house with a beautiful husband who has done very well in his life. She wants for nothing but I would never switch a day in her shoes for all the wealth in the world. My house has Shiyara and with her all the life and love and fun and warmth that I could have prayed g-d would grant me.

Even as I break in my low moments, even when I scold myself for not being the best mother… my one honest joy no matter the state of the world outside is seeing her in it sleeping beside me…my daughter is a strong willed beauty.

She is my little sister, my little girl. May I always do right by her.


“Don’t deny it. Let it go back to where it came from.”

“One person not in life is going to love it and the others are going to hate it. I will disappoint them and disrupt who I am supposed to be for them.”

Before she left to Kuwait she let me film her and speak to her on camera about her mother, her lover, her feelings of leaving home. In the morning I woke up at 6 and sat down stairs listening to her run around quietly. She slipped a bottle of perfume in my bag and kissed me. The rest of the family came to sit with me. The silence was unbearable that I felt only then like I had to keep myself discreet and far from crying. She instantly stood and left the room. I followed and found her in the bathroom already washing her face. She is like a bigger sister, one of my best friends and I have never seen her crying. She hugged me and told me in English that she loved me. I could only say, “One year. It will only be one year.”

She walked into the bedroom where Iklas slept. She laid her head at her feet and cried. I walked away and waited by the door.

Working, traveling ,leaving home, leaving your heart behind. Her image stays with me.


lt’s exhausting to see the same images of Muslim men in Africa or North of it portrayed as “violent Arab men”

How is it that Christian fundamentalists in Britain and America who “fundamentally” hate “the Jews who killed Jesus” also passionately dislike Muslims many also semitic people (but please don’t get me started about the bigots claiming anti-semitism doesn’t exist because there are other semitic languages/cultures).

It’s exhausting to see the same images of Muslim men in Africa or North of it portrayed as “violent Arab men” along with their counterpart images of older women speaking ‘gibberish’ in black who are never given translation unless they are saying “Down with America” right after they lost every member of their family.

On the rare occasion when I watch the news in my friend’s apartment there is always a moment I think I am being paranoid because I don’t recognize anyone. I begin thinking that Moroccan culture and men are so drastically different from all other Muslim men in the world and perhaps yes, but perhaps no.

Just as I had that thought that something doesn’t seem right I saw the cut away shot. They shot the young skinny man beating his fists on the wagon and screaming then raising his hands to his head. Just before they cut away I saw him turning to begin the movement of reaching for his mother obviously to cry in her arms like a little boy but they didn’t show that. All that you will see is him acting ‘violent’ like a ‘savage’ who you partly are glad is on that side of the camera and that side of the world.

Maybe deep inside you don’t really have any sympathy at all. How can you? He’s waving around like a crazy person. The images I see of passion on TV sometimes look strange and are repeated and repeated and I wonder how many times you can repeat the same two or three tricks and tropes until someone catches on? I ask about these edits because the people I know are some or the biggest talkers and expressive people but avoid violence as best as they can. If it comes to blows, well…it just isn’t done that often and certainly a thousand times less then in the states.

What is beginning to surprise me for months now is how much affection, kissing of heads and hands goes on in intimate relationships. Even if I am the one who is yelling, the one I am yelling at will kiss my head and show me they are sorry not with words but by showing me. Gestures.

An angry fighting match that looks like someone is going to die will dissolve into water with a few kisses like once when a man kicked my bags in a heated fight over not moving fast enough. I was about to start a war on him and his family. After I made the whole train station stop as I yelled an English curse and my friend intervened.   Amongst on lookers he admitted he was wrong and asked for forgiveness in as many ways as he could and was ready to kiss my hand twice in two minutes.


title or description


i need your hands


unconditional surrender

“Exile is the only country without a geography. It has, however, a climate, a culture, an ecology, an archeology and virtually a national smell.”

“The map of the unreal, the imaginary. And it is only then that they express precisely the immeasurable experience of exile.”-Ugresic

Remembrance is possession. Memory is object(s).


Writing on an author for class, I find that against my will i love these writings in The Croatian that are both scholarship and memoir, impersonal facts and personal stories in between record and invention on this feeling of being displaced.

Searching for home, being in love, loss, exile, feeling displaced…has been the subject of my poems since coming to America at ten. It’s the spirit that makes me hunt genealogy records and save all pictures and all my father’s jewelry. When asked why i am this way, why i do these things, i could never explain it well enough.

All the objects, idols, images, tangibles we’re taught to disrespect but whose importance to me all the same is wrapped up in a story i read.

A Bosnian friend remarks that there are two kinds of refugees, “those who have photographs and those who have none.”

On this particular day the Bosnian-Serb general/war criminal by the name of Ratko Mladic noticed that the Sarajevo home of an acquaintance was on his bombardment list. Mladic phoned him to tell him that he had less then five minutes to collect his photographs and leave.

“The general, who had been destroying the city for months, knew precisely how to annihilate memory. That is why he ‘generously’ bestowed on his acquaintance life, with the right to remembrance.”

All photographs are mementos mori. “To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to…relentless melt.” – Susan Sontag

Jerusalem Art Project

remembrance is possession, and i am relentlessly possessed.


transverse unshamed, take it as a souvenir

your toothbrush is resting down the hall
I shut my eyes
entwined in your legs
aware you will be traveling soon.
I find us,
waking up in the dark with
five interwoven parts, persuaded, won over,
seduced, converted, seduced the other way.
in the night praying hands come out of
a wetness on these finger tips,
un-self consciously wandering across your back.
in the night I lay quiet
listening to you speaking in tongues
watching you sleep with me, traveler.
traveling into your dreams
tugging on to kites and hemlines
running through space
where we’re nearing the lighthouse,
I close my eyes
you’re almost at the gate,
I smile, I want to thank you
for this…


Post Script: broke in Rabat

the man outside of L’Belle Vie who was trying to give me directions to go to the Embassy and the Main Bank Au Marque next door couldn’t quite understand why i insisted on walking. “It’s really far Lalla. Just take a taxi it’s only maybe 20dhs.” He is distinctively calm. And unlike most young men from around this way, he has a gentle way of being that never insists that “you must…” He’s young and has the most beautiful eyes I’ve seen on a man. If there is one word I would use to describe him, I might initially say “sweet” but when you say “sweet” you smile and it’s said in the same way that something sweet is consumed–quickly. it’s not that he’s “sweet” or even cute as much as he is soft…like the way you say “soft” quietly, softly, prolonging such a small word.

he’s searching for the reason i really really just want to walk and i’m quick and in contrast to him. “Yes, I want to walk, just tell me how to get there and I’ll find the way.” He tries to explain looking outward to the roads and back to me as I look at him intensely, trying to listen to (his silences)…his directions. After a long five minutes of him slowly trying to explain he says, “but the roads are wild and you will find it hard to get there.” he looks at me with concern and i think i can actually tell this man and i think he will understand. even though we’re the same age he seems so much older than me and even though he’s a man and he’s gorgeous he doesn’t seem to know it/believe it, and even though I’m foreign he doesn’t seem to care. “It’s cheap miss, it’s only 20dhs.” He’s looking at me as if he’s asking and i think i can tell him that, “I have no money to take a taxi” I have to walk. “Not even 20dhs.” I don’t say anything. Not that I gave the last of my cash away to the girl on the bus who needed to get home, thinking i could get more for myself from the ATM later. He’s looking at me with these big eyes that are so concerned. He doesn’t take a second to think this through before he says, “it’s not a problem. here, wait right here, I’ll be back, I’ll give you the money.” “NO!” I stop him from going into the store. “Why? you need it don’t you?” “i don’t want it, i can’t take it, i’ll walk.” “no…i promise this is okay.” He waits outside in the sun with me as a store full of shoppers look on. He’s looking at me, waiting for me, just saying, “it’s okay. it’s really okay. it’s okay.” and with that I breeeeeeath, let my hands fall to my sides and warn him that I think I might cry. he’s quiet, he waits for me there, without saying a word as the tears are now streaming down my face. he’s waiting with me, witnessing me, not saying a word.

He leaves and returns, puts the money in my hand. tells me that if I have a problem with the bank to come back, that he works here as the director. I tell him this is shuumah (shame) for me to take this and he says no. if i want and if i can and only if i would feel better, than pay it back when i can, but if not, it’s not shuumah. He looks at my red cheeks and tells me to wait again. He comes back gives me a bottle of water and tells me that everything will be okay. i get in a cab and cry in silence. he made me cry, but the irony and beauty of this whole thing made me laugh.

“You might as well say goodbye to that money” for the next 2 months as apparently this has happened before to them. Charles gives me 10 bucks at the American Em. His grandmother went to Smith and he tells me, “I hear you’re losing your dining rooms.” How the hell does he know that. “How do you know that?” The Herald Tribune/New York Times and Shirley, the Smith alum who offers to take me in after the feast/holiday here that i am spending with my family. i need to get around still to film so i am resolving the problem:this one anyhow. i wait. ready to laugh that you have inherited me. yes that penguin with wings that can’t fly, flopping about, cute but useless. (a mess)

PS: there is a kid (maybe 4 years old) shouting into the phone in front of me (that he can’t quite reach up to just yet) of the teleboutique. he’s all by himself talking to the person on the phone about his zween girlfriend with all these formal introductions as the old grandfatherish man behind me grumbles into his cell phone!


when i will reach home

life holds your hand and breaks your heart.

it tells you that a broken heart isn’t bad. each break is an opening.

so i put trust in love just as the dream ends, lying in bed touching the one i love. the dream ends and like magic it expands out anew like a sand timer opening up on the other side.


To the girls who cannot sleep

You say you can’t sleep.  you say that you lay on your bed with your eyes open in the dark.  you replay the conversations, you think of the world, big and small, yours and mine…lonely and brillant and sweet. This is you tonight.  i don’t know how to change the night.  but i know that i care about you.  that you are too good to feel crazy like us.   I wish that I could sit up in your bed and keep my fingertips on your hair. tell you that i have your dreams and your fears in my chest. so shhhh… close your eyes. I’m here. go to bed. I’ve got you.


Love and Complications in Hamsa/5


The house is empty.
It’s been exactly 3 hours since I left him at the airport.
My jeans lay inside out on the floor.
The coffee’s still sitting in its tray where I left it the morning before.
I know where everything is, even if not here any longer.
Music echoes from my computer
and although I will get no rest,
my spirits are high.

* * *

It’s been 4 days.
My house has seen guests and gone back to its prior normal life.
I wash the floors.
I splash water under my bed sending the dust out.
I expect any minute now between the lathering and rinsing,
and the wringing of rags, with my hands and feet following the floor,
that soon I will get the next lesson.
It will hit me somehow.
How to jolt the life back into me despite the desire to curl up and hide.
How easy to pine,
how hard it is to stand my yourself and say.
Yes all of this is beyond me and that’s okay.
Maybe the fear creeping in is that love makes us feel so central and so inconsequential.
Despite people running through us, we remain beautiful.
Maybe our jealousy is in the knowing how little we matter in the end.
They will be them. We will be us.
With birth marks or scars perhaps from our union.

* * *


What happens when you sit at a bar and Jihad and Islam walk in?

“Talk to my cousin,” Islam said pointing me in the direction of a young man sitting next to me.

I didn’t know either of them but noticed the cousin was quiet, answered when spoken to and looked overall shocked at over hearing the conversation about female sexuality.

A man sat down next to Islam and ordered a drink.

“Hey do you want to join the conversation?” He asked trying to interrupt the conversation that my girlfriend was having with a boy in front of her whose face was on its way to joining hers.

“Why are you bothering them?” I said a bit annoyed. “Leave them alone. You can speak to me.”

I wanted my two friends to make a match and didn’t appreciate the intrusion from a perfect stranger.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“My name is Jihad.”

“Is that your real name?” I asked a bit surprised to have never heard it in a decade.

“Yes it’s my name.” He said proudly with a beaming smile. “So how long have you been in Morocco?”

I gave a sigh of relief, “Too long. This is my last year.”

“Where are you going?” He asked.

“New York and then Israel.”

“I have been to Israel. I loved it.” He said.

I was pleasantly shocked that a non-Jewish Moroccan had traveled there.

More shocked even then when Islam reached over the table to slap my face repeatedly with a smile.

I crunched up my forehead and uncomfortably backed away with a nervous smile as he tried slapping my face a few more times.

My conversation with the girls about sexuality seemed to invite Islam to assume that I would (of course) be up for sex with him or (at least) mild BDSM at the pub in front of his girlfriend.

I noticed the physical intrusion and literally ‘rolled with the punches’. It was awkward to say the least since we had never met before and I didn’t ask to be slapped in any way shape or form.

The night ended with me getting 3 AM texts and directly telling Jihad I didn’t want him to come back home or break bread but I got weekly messages for months irregardless.

* * *

It’s Yom Kippur and I read the writings of my Rabbi and the Torah.
I disconnect to water and food and Facebook and him.
I stand for 3 hours at the front of the balcony on the synagogue watching,
closing my eyes, watching the men cover their sons and facing the Sefar Torah.
I cry in the center of the synagogue but without anyone’s eyes on me.
I disconnect from the world in the middle of a cluttered city that is silent except for the sound of sheep about to die.
I walk between the white man’s world and the Muslim world in Morocco,
but I completely disconnect from them into another…the Jewish world of prayer and food and family.
Joy emanates from behind our shelters
shielded by police outside
to shield the world’s eyes from our presence.
Where does the wall come from? they ask.
Why are you so closed, so different?
They so promptly forget the thousands things that came before in their lifetime that made police stand guard.

In synagogue we asked to what were we blind?
We said “We bear the intentional sin of our hearts.”
We can live without food and water for a day but we cannot live without hope, love, g-d for even a moment.

I believe that there is a sun even if it is not shining and I believe in love even if i cannot feel it and I believe in G-d even when he is silent.’
This was written on a wall hidden from Nazi captors.


Although I cannot see him.
He is there.
I am here too.
And I will love.
* * *


It’s been a few months and he saw a head scarf on me and asked uncomfortably if it was religious.

I asked if it would bother him if it was religious.

The discussion had never been broached before except mildly and with humor but this time it was serious.

“Yeah I would have a problem with it.” He said. “My kids won’t go to religious school.” Marking the distinction of what was mine and what was his in the present and the hypothetical future. “Your daughter is yours,” he said. “But my kids will have a different education.”

He spoke of “Religion” as if all practices have the same context.

As if Jews didn’t live the vast majority of history as a minority and Muslims and Christians hadn’t ruled dynasties.

As if the many branches and thoughts of Judaism, and the many denominations of Christianity and the regional and political differences of Islam are similar.

They are in unequal conversation sometimes but contrary to the idea that all religions are the same they are all as profoundly different as they come, not just between the three major religions but beyond that.

“Religion” though to him became a ball that didn’t resemble what I know of my religion but sounded like some abstract outline of what he heard and saw from a combination of others.

I smoked as I listened to him tell me that I didn’t know anything because I was religious, although I never imposed nothing on no one.

I am a part of a group that has a million different views and is the smallest in the world with specific customs that I want to celebrate in peace. Not fight with a partner behind our own doors when there is enough of that outside. Somehow to do what I do and be a little different from the Western White Man’s world means I am being exclusionary and less informed and a very worthy punching bag for things much bigger and more abstract than myself.

He said “Judaism” isn’t universal and thus not good. I asked what “universal” meant anyhow? In my travels there are basic human functions we share like thirst hunger and need but there are very few things that are universal in the theoretical, ideological sense. “Universal” is another white man’s world word that seems neutral and hides its ideology in plain sight. It’s the same way the French call themselves “atheists” and don’t want to see kippas and hijabs in public but have no problem closing everything down by law on Sunday and yet not covering all the churches and Christian memorabilia across the country on every corner.

“I want to rescue you from religion.” He said while sitting in Paris. “The religious people will never accept you for who you are. They will reject you.” He promised.

Sitting in Casablanca, I thought how people who want to “rescue” us are also people with a need to oppress us. I find that people like to replicate the same model they claim to despise.

I won’t speak for anyone elses’ beliefs but Judaism doesn’t seek out converts and makes no claim to give one an easy life or a paradise after with women. My religion is not a refuge from critical thinking or a punishment forced on me. It’s my life choice.

I believe everyone is entitled to reject my choices and have a different set of opinions, but this conversation with my ‘open minded non-religious’ friend had me holding my hands up in metaphorical defense of my self as a Jew in a way I never have had to do with any of my religious Jewish friends. None of my deeply believing Jewish friends have rejected me even if they easily could because we don’t do the same things or practice the same way.

“If you had a family you wouldn’t need religion.” He said. “If you didn’t have such a life you wouldn’t need it.”

“I won’t fight with you.” I said. I didn’t see the point in fighting. To defend what? Myself?

“Are you going to tell your future rabbi husband that you are bisexual?” He asked egging me on.

He questioned my level of “authentic” Jewish DNA. He questioned the validity of my daughter’s Jewishness because her father isn’t a “good Jew” as if he was the judge and held a measuring cup for transferable Jewish purity. He attacked religious people for being unable to accept me but Jewish law considers gossip and judgement some of the very worst things we can do, as is saying that someone is not a good Jew or no longer a Jew or reminding one that they were not Jewish before or not Jewish enough. None of my religious friends have ever attacked my person.

He then asked how I could even think of myself as worthy of having a religion.

“You do all sorts of things religious people don’t do.” He said, assuming what religious Jews do. “You should admit you are fucked up and say, ‘I lie, Be better.'”

“I won’t fight you,” was becoming a mantra I repeated quietly. I wasn’t going to fight him but normally I would have had enough in me to defend myself, but it was exhausting and where would I have even started.

I got off Skype and he wrote me:

“You will keep on in your stupid religion rituals, in despair for family that you’ll find in random religious people. You will look for a husband who will be a kind sperm donor, but you’ll still be haunted by your demons and you’ll die from the inside, and you’ll accuse yourself of not being pure enough.”

I didn’t see the point in fighting over religion. It’s like love. You feel it or you don’t. If you don’t feel it it’s okay. Just let me live freely with dignity too.

Fear not. I am not in despair. My friends are not random. I am not looking for a husband or I would have married a awhile ago a few times already. I just will wait for an equal that I respect.

Haunted by demons I am not, even though my twenties were fun and full of them.

I can’t die inside. How do I know? Nothing has killed me before and I have seen much worse.

I don’t have to be a perfect person to participate in my religion.  And the most pleasurable things on earth are not forbidden in my religion or by the vast majority of “ultra-religious” (as he would say, or as I would rather say) deeply spiritual Jewish communities.

* * *