Yehoshua November

Conjoined Twins
by Yehoshua November

My father was a resident in the hospital
when my young mother gave birth to them. Two bodies
and one heart.
And hearing that the pathologists at that teaching institution
were coming to learn the lessons
science’s rare cases could teach,
my father turned the combination
on his locker and concealed the stillborn baby boys
in a box.

Early the next morning, another Jewish resident
stood over the bodies with my father,
performed the ritual circumcisions in the silence
of an unoccupied delivery room.
“Choose names you would not otherwise use,”
the rabbi had instructed over the phone.

At the burial my father asked why
this had happened. “Perhaps you are not
as religious as you should be,”
the rabbi answered. And the answer plunged G-d
into concealment for my father.

“I looked quickly
and saw them embracing,” my mother later said
of the two boys, who were to be born
between Purim and Passover.

One was named Mordechai,
who gathered all the Jews
when they thought they had been forsaken.
And one was named Pesach,
the holiday when all Jews,
even idol worshippers,
were freed,
as long as they desired to go.

And they left their bondage and arrived at the mountain
where, the Midrash states,
they camped in the desert
like one man
with one heart.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 1.

Yehoshua NovemberYehoshua November is the author of God’s Optimism, which was named a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize in Poetry, Autumn House Poetry Prize, and Tampa Review Prize for Poetry. The Jewish Week named November one of the 36 “Best and Brightest Innovators and Visionaries” under 36 years of age. The winner of Prairie Schooner’s Bernice Slote Award, the MSR Poetry Book Award, and the London School of Jewish Studies Poetry Contest, November teaches writing at Rutgers University and Touro College.

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