Lilith Feature

How To Braid Challah

i. Ingredients
You will be baking
with languages.
Russian, German,
and Yiddish
will suffice —
they contain
a large amount
of gluten —

ii. Mixing the Dough
While you
knead the concoction,
gathering strength
in your arms
and volume
in your voice —
such heated
discussions
until the children
scream, Stop arguing!
and you retort
we are not arguing
we are discussing
Aunt Ruthie
and your lost tooth
and Rachel’s
report card
and Zena’s last
doctor’s appointment
for TMJ
slap slapping it down
turn turning it over
in the dough —
your conversations
rise, like special yeast —
and because
your temper
has risen
just a bit z —
you might be in danger
of braiding
the challah
too tightly —
never mind.

iii. Cutting and Braiding
When cutting
the dough
into three, four, six
braids, they may be
too long for the
counter space.
Feel free to use the oldfashioned
mahogany
dining room table —
or linoleum —
whatever you’ve got
will do, Stretch
out the lengthy
ropes —
take up room —
English sentences
are famished
for intonation,
complexity,
and desire —
Using generous hand
motions, braid
the pogroms.
Don’t forget to flour
the board every so often —
sweeping your hand
across the marble,
a clean slate.

iv. Optional
Brush with egg
white twice
so the loaves glisten —
once after
braiding
and again after baking
in honor
of your
Russian
grandmother
who threw two
kisses, one
for each cheek;
or sprinkle
a Yinglish
of raisins
or poppy seeds.

v. Serving the Challah
Invite oodles of people.
Tear off chunks.
Dance with your bread.
Let the crumbs
fall on the good table
cloth,
so be it.

Claudia M. Reder is the author of My Father & Miro and Other Poems. 

About the Judge  

Poet Alicia Ostriker was the judge for the 2007 Charlotte Newberger Poetry Prize at Lilith.  She is the author of 11 books of poetry, her work has been translated into seven languages, and she has been nominated twice for the National Book Award.  

About the Prize

The poetry prize is named for Charlotte A. Newberger, whose support for Lilith makes possible the publication of new poems in every issue, reviews of books by established and emerging poets, and this annual poetry competition.  Newberger has had a longstanding interest in poetry and the arts, and has served for many years on the boards of such institutions as Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater and The Poetry Center, as well as serving as president of the Foundation for the Jewish Culture.

 

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