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Sample Poems by Janet Heller


The whale thrashed me onto shore.
I had gotten so used to living alone
amid the ribs and thwarts of its belly
that the trees of the island seemed to gesticulate menacingly
and the wind threatened to knock me down.

It was horrendously hot.
My head and armpits and genitals dripped.
I stood there, my naked woman's body burning,
and prayed.

God caused a gourd to grow up around me.
It was air- conditioned, and I could sleep.
It had a restaurant and was rest-room equipped.
Movies and records came after meals.
At least once a week there was a phone call.
I became dependent.

Then worms devoured the gourd.
Now it was refrigerator cold. My breasts and thighs shivered.
I stood there, my naked woman's body congealing,
and prayed.

And God said,
"Are you very angry because of the gourd?"
In answer, I drove my fist into the air where the gourd had been.
And God said,
"Maybe now you understand Me better.
Go to Nineveh and prophesy."

Adam and Eve

We leave Eden,
the setting sun scorching our eyes.
I gaze for the last time
on our pear trees and daffodils,
listen to the cadences
of the tranquil River Gihon.

Our eyes are opened:
we stare at one another's nakedness,
attracted and repelled,
then cover ourselves with girdles of fig leaves
and turn away from each other's gaze.

You reproach me for trusting the serpent
and succumbing to the fruit.

I blame you for scattering the cores
and forgetting to empty the garbage.

We walk in a hostile silence,

I stumble on the rocky path,
you reach out your hand to steady me.
Our eyes meet, and I take your hand.

We must learn to live
in a world of deprivation.


When the waters of hate receded,
a seasick linnet flew from the ark.
She returned with a birch leaf
in token that spring was emerging
but the bitterness had not subsided.


My boat is tossed by waves,
buffeted by winds from the storm,
battered by torrents of rain.
It is so dark that day blurs into night.

As the ship pitches,
the animals groan.
My children are seasick.
After five months of storms,
a heavy silence hangs
between me and my wife.

Then the rain slackens
and our ship comes to rest
upon the mountains of Ararat.
We wait for seven more months,
listening to the howl of the winds.

Hoping for a miracle,
I send out a plump dove.
She returns at eventide with an olive leaf.
The children scream with joy.
My wife and I embrace.

Our feet tread gently on the firm ground.
It feels strange not to be tossed as we walk.
Without the sound of rain,
the world seems hushed and still
like a synagogue on Atonement Day.

Slowly, a rainbow arches across the sky,
as colorful as Joseph's coat.