Melissa Broder’s Pen Pal # 1

In her last posts, Melissa Broder conducted a “Jewish vs. Goyish litmus test” for the year in review, shared the B-Sides of her forthcoming When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother (Feb. 6), and imagined being in Hebrew School with John Stewart, Bob Dylan, and Rahm Emanuel. She is guest-blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council.

Dear Esther Schwebel,jewish_authors_blog2.jpg

Where are you?

It was supposed to be an exchange program, but you could never come to my part of the world, the triple-treif land of cheesesteak-munchers.

I was Jewish only on high holidays and by hair iron, and I found myself in Boro Park asking your mother if schul meant school, calling your littlest brother a girl, turning on all the wrong lights.

It seemed like you had 20 siblings. On Friday afternoon the youngest ones tore toilet paper and unwrapped every kosher Twinkie in the box. There was whole roast chicken and kasha, though you were on a new all-cake diet. Thin was in everywhere, even Boro Park. You were trying, but not very hard.

Over kosher pizza you told me you had never kissed a boy, not so much as even held hands. What did you do at a Bar Mitzvah party? There was no Electric Slide, Humpty-Hump, Roger Rabbit, or Doin’ the Butt.

But here’s what there was: sepia shadows in double candlelight, sweet wine in silver kiddush cups, whispered gossip at the mikvah, hardcover books, radio static on Sundays, braided raisin challah, plum-cheeked girls named Ariella and Liat.

broder.JPGI could have stayed there forever and grown happy-fat. I could have written pen pal letters to treify girls from Philadelphia, and on the back scrawled: Don’t look under the stamp! Under the stamp, I could have written: Nosybody!

I could have sat separate every Saturday; surfed a current in the air with my eyes shut. I could have called that current god. I could have a blessing for everything. I could have served cholent.

Esther Schwebel, how many children do you have by now?

Yours truly,

when_you_say_one_thing.JPGMelissa Broder is the author of When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother. She is the curator of the Polestar Poetry Series and the Chief Editor of La Petite Zine. She is the winner of the Jerome Lowell Dejur Award and the Stark Prize for Poetry. Broder received her BA from Tufts University and is currently in the MFA program at the CCNY. By day, she works as a literary publicist. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including: Opium, Shampoo, Conte and The Del Sol Review. She lives in Brooklyn. Visit her website at She will be blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council.

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