Tag Archives: judaism

Potcake Poet’s Choice: Tom Vaughan, ‘To Whom It May Concern’

Remember waking, starting, stupidly young
the promises, the lies, the world’s forked tongue

Remember how you longed for love, and how
you long for love the same way, even now

you know that there’s no cure for loneliness
not even love, let alone happiness

Remember marriage, children, summer holidays
Remember work, remember all the ways

you chose to be defined which were not you –
if there’s a self definable as ‘true’

Then remember prayer, answered or unanswered
(either way, how to tell?). Remember whispered

doubts. Remember the words and images
which led/misled you on your pilgrimage

Remember how you crossed the desert, cursing
Remember how you crossed the desert, hoping

Remember age and illness, letting go
of everything you’d told yourself you know

Remember forgetting the Lord your God decreed
you must remember him, and teach your seed

the stories storing their identity.
And if you read this, please remember me.

Tom Vaughan writes: “I like it because it came in a rush, like something hammering in my head, and because it reflects not just what seems to me the crucial nature of the link between memory (however selective and indeed creative) and identity, a link I saw brutally put to the test during my mother’s long decline with Alzheimer’s, but what has always fascinated me about Judaism and the wonderful emphasis in the Jewish scriptures and festivals on the need to remember, in order to retain/create a sense not just of individual but also of collective identify.

The rush also meant that substantial trimming was called for: it was originally about twice the length. But I hope the final compressed result pins down more precisely the push and tumble of the writing process.”

Tom Vaughan is not the real name of a poet whose previous publications include a novel and two poetry pamphlets (A Sampler, 2010, and Envoy, 2013, both published by HappenStance). His poems have been published in a range of poetry magazines, including several of the Potcake Chapbooks:
Careers and Other Catastrophes
Familes and Other Fiascoes
Strip Down
Houses and Homes Forever
Travels and Travails.
He currently lives and works in London.
https://tomvaughan.website

‘To Whom It May Concern’ was first published in Snakeskin 277, October 2020

Photo: “Jewish house with Mezuzah” by La Laetti is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

Poem: “Religions”

If it’s Sunday, maybe I should post a religious poem… Of course, the trouble is my

Newgrange

Newgrange – prehistoric Irish site aligned with the winter solstice

ambivalence about religion. I side with US statesman and orator Henry Clay: “All religions united with government are more or less inimical to liberty. All, separated from government, are compatible with liberty.” And if there’s a difference between history and religion, I’ll take history any time.

So this one was originally published in Snakeskin, August 2016…

Religions

Judaism

Genocide in Canaan
Gave God’s land to the Jews;
But genocides in other lands
Are Yahweh’s big taboos.

Buddhism

All life is suffering,
Yes, all our life is pain;
Then I must be a masochist –
I’d love to live again.

Norse religion

The first gods killed a giant,
From his skull to make
The sky, and mountains from his bones –
What lies! No talking snake?!

Christianity

Jesus wasn’t Jewish
And his killers weren’t from Caesar;
At least, so Paul said after
An epileptic seizure.

Islam

There is no God but One,
Perfect in every way;
All creatures do His unknown will –
So there’s no need to pray.

Mormonism

To teenage Joseph Smith
An angel showed gold plates
On which he read ‘Jesus Was Here’ –
It got him lots of dates.

Modern Paganism

Pretentious modern pagans
Confused by mystic spoof
Have got no clue what Stonehenge was
With its old Newgrange roof.

Atheism

I don’t see gods on clouds,
I don’t hear angels sing;
There’s just one question bothers me –
How come there’s anything?

About the use of form here: flippant comments, as in the above poem, are well served by simple quatrains with a bit of bounce to them. Iambics are not in themselves bouncy, but in this pattern of 3 feet, 3 feet, 4 feet, 3 feet they work fine. There’s not a lot of thought in any of the verses, just a set-up and a quick jab. The form works well for its purpose.