Poem of the Week | October 12, 2020

This week’s Poem of the Week is “HAMOTZI” by sam sax!

sam sax is a queer, jewish writer & educator. The author of Madness, winner of The National Poetry Series, and Bury It, winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. He’s the two time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion with poems published in The New York Times, Poetry Magazine, & Buzzfeed. He’s a 2018 Ruth Lilly Fellow from The Poetry Foundation & a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.



i say the kaddish over beheaded flowers.
over apples marooned in glossy supermarket pyramids
over trees succumbed to the slow-tongue of an invasive fungus.

i say the kaddish for buildings outpricing tenants.
apartments set ablaze in the night by landlords who live rivers away.
cities unpersoned to make room for new technologies.

i say the kaddish over food before i eat which i know is not the correct prayer.
tho of course something died for me
to be here. instead i bless my food when a loved one passes

is lowered into the earth like the bulb of onion—
dead bulb lit again to sprout into good dark bread.

when X died, i blessed the bread. made a feast for my living
friends. he was so young there was no comfort in the traditional
prayers. we listened to his music. we ate our soup.


Author’s Note

This poem started when the line ‘I say the kaddish for beheaded flowers’ came to me while walking somewhere in oakland at night negotiating the loss of a recent loved one and the line felt like a deep well that fed into a stream i could follow out of or at least alongside my spiraling sadness. so I followed it.