Dragon Tefillin: High Holidays Poetry Contest, #3

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This year’s High Holiday Poetry Contest–sponsored by MJL and Shemspeed–was a bit of a whopper, as my Australian family would say. The Jewish New Year coming so close to summer vacation might have surprised us, but not you. We demanded that you all produce works of sheer genius in just two weeks. And you came through.

We’ll be running the contest winners all day — so keep coming back throughout the day for more awesome poems. And keep visiting MJL for more great Rosh Hashanah content (like these cool videos) throughout the New Year and beyond.

Our third-place entry comes from Eliyahu Enriquez, who’s no stranger to MJL. (Just a note: All entries were read blind, and we have no idea who the first two winners are!) His poem “Dragon Tefillin” mystified most of us, but also inspired some pretty strong feelings. As one MJL employee wrote: “I don’t really know poetry, and I have no idea what it’s about, but I think it’s amazing.”

Dragon Tefillin

This is what it feels like to drown:

Festivities end.
The angels were never there
To begin with
Your incomplete


So. You return from whence you came.
Skinnydip through unchartered names.
An island Eden, draped in seaweed
That feel like serpents tickling your toes.

Convince yourself
Of Eternity
Embedded in a Cainine stroke
After desperate stroke.

Imbued with perplexity
And gasping for breathalyzer

You realize
Reincarnated into a pair of anonymous


Posted on September 1, 2010

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6 thoughts on “Dragon Tefillin: High Holidays Poetry Contest, #3

  1. e2

    Rita Janice Traub: i’m glad you found beauty in the poem. the ending’s the kicker.
    Monica Goldberg: when i found out the news, and after reviewing the poem, i got pre-high holiday jitters. happy new year to you and yours.
    tefillin rabbi: it’s metaphorical, i suppose — “draped in seaweed”

    Yum Tov.

  2. Matthue Roth Post author

    @Tefillin Rabbi: It’s a poem, so everyone will have a different interpretation. For me, it was about returning to the daily grind of putting on tefillin after the unrealness of a holiday (when observant Jews don’t wear tefillin). I loved the image of seaweed dragging you down. What do you think?

  3. e2

    @Matthue Roth Really like the taste of Japanese Seaweed, actually.

    The poem is based on the time I almost drowned to death on the last day of a summer music festival in IL, USA c. 2006. Was in the water for quite some time, wading on my back mostly; I’m a terrible swimmer, but the nearby island was so inviting. No lifeguards on duty, at the time. No one heard me. There was a moment, while submerged, where I pictured myself migrating to Israel—as a dolphin, as well as other images due to water going the wrong way and lack of oxygen, like being hooked up to wires, floating in a liquid pod [a bit too Star Warsy for my poetic taste-buds]. Saved myself, eventually. Lost a pair of eyeglasses, however.

    Upon notification that day, I was studying Tsara’@.

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