Bar Mitzvah Dreams / Baruch November


Bar Mitzvah Dreams

poems by

Baruch November

ISBN: 978-1-59948-731-1, 84 pages, $15 (+ shipping)

Release Date:  March 19, 2019


Baruch November has an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and has taught courses in Shakespeare, poetry, and writing at Touro College in Manhattan for more than a decade. His poems and short fiction have been featured in Paterson Literary Review, Lumina, New Myths, The Forward, Jewish Journal, Poetica, and Jewish Literary Journal and a collection of poems entitled Dry Nectars of Plenty co-won BigCityLit’s chapbook contest in 2003. He has lived in many cities in the United States, but currently resides in Washington Heights, New York.  

Bar Mitzvah Dreams by Baruch November is an amazing collection of surreal Dream sequences containing references to pop culture figures, artists, thinkers, scholars and rabbis. The poet often speaks directly to these as he tries to come to terms with the meaning of his own life, faith and love. The overriding intelligence of the Poet is present in every poem and comes out of the questioning of what it means to be alive. The powerful longing for love and touch are strong elements in this book. I love it and I think you will too. It’s quite beautiful. ~Maria Mazziotti Gillan, American Book Award Winner

Bar Mitzvah Dreams is a fine first book, one of the best I’ve recently read. The poems are powerfully made with strong beginnings and surprising conclusions. There is no chaff. The language is direct and rich in metaphor. The free verse is rhythmic and strongly stressed. All are serious, but often with comic aspects. The book also includes two sequences: “A Series of Dreams,” with 22 connected poems and “A Beard of Poems” with 18. The first has fantastical elements (Van Gogh makes appearances); in the second, Mr. November uses his beard as metaphor. One section begins: “To wear a beard is also to live in a cage/ made endlessly of oneself.” The entire book is a pleasure to read. ~Stephen Dobyns

Our Captain Speaking


What if every time our lives began to tremble
with pending danger—the oncoming
loss of job, spouse, great head
of hair—a captain spoke
above the static
in a practiced voice, telling us
it is just
some turbulence, a storm
from the East,
heading South?

He could advise the crew to pass out
soft drinks of consolation,
hard pretzels curved to the shape
of life’s perilous twists.

And then, we might believe in him,
understand he needs us
to remain calm,
not to give into throes of panic,
as he guides us down
the impossibly low ceiling
of our descent.



Recess at Scranton Hebrew Day School


A swarm of yellow jackets appeared
like a leopard’s spot or flat hairy mole
latched to the long face
of black asphalt.

We played football around it because we loved
damaging each other as rabbis
watched in black trench coats, dusty hats,
chain-smoking into noon light
with clenched hands, dry lips,
jowls shaped by old disappointments—

till one day,
we found their once gold-black bodies
burned beyond flight,
crusted to dark earth.

We circled them, daring
each other to touch the surface
of carnage that shined
with sunlight like a slick
black scab.

Few had survived, buzzing
above us, lost in soaring anger
or crazed prayers—
like a misplaced tribe
no one in the land of exile
would understand.



Always the Wedding Dance


As if tangled puppets on fire, young Jews
of Flatbush try to grind to rhymes
of Tupac—supposedly sung
from his early grave.

Nearby, old world teffilin crumble to nothing
on East River’s soft bottom,
the midnight wind searches still
for the harp of David, which it once played,
and Neil Diamond cries into the firm lap
of his new gentile wife,
wishing the young bought his music, too.

At times, we are all caught under
the river’s coldest currents,
the never draining darkness,
yet from heights above,
mortal city lights appear to merge
with a single great light.

And, if we allowed it, the dense mirage
of separation could filter out
from this world, revealing the One
of no end, of no source,

who wants all of us, as his lovers,
to return to the only dance
we have always danced,
knowing it or not.



The Quiet Passengers


We race the broken
December roads, still numb
with old snows. Heaven, in blood-
orange clouds, wrestles above.
Everything below turns
to icicle and hard river.

Leaving only a blue exhaust,
our car glides by temples
of silent pines and dark stone.
Not one animal creeps out.
They must press together
for warmth in their holes.
How fortunate that they need not
travel now these cold miles
like us, wondering what
a love’s long silence implies.

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