Mishpatim

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Do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.

Exodus 23:19

I became a vegetarian spontaneously one day
in an Islands restaurant after reading a pamphlet
from a pen-pal about vivisection.

It was 1986, back when having a pen-pal was a thing.
I was eighteen years old and, as is the custom
of that age, I knew everything there was to know.

That was my last chicken sandwich, or anything, really,
that had a face. Unless you count the beef I accidentally
ate last year when Chipotle got my order wrong.

Thirty years later, animals with sacred faces
roam my Van Nuys halls. I wouldn’t cook them
in anything, let alone their mother’s milk.

Other creatures, like foreigners, have found their way
to my front door, and I, fueled by the memory of
being a stranger in Egypt, open my tent to them,

lay out plastic bowls of premium food
so they will feel whole. So the human family
expands beyond its artificial boundaries.
Attention politicians: It says in the oldest texts
to welcome the stranger, not pretend the lines
we have drawn are not abhorrent to nature.

Take heed as you appeal for our votes.
A human being is a human being, even if they’re
from New Jersey, or places even stranger.

My conscience sits on my lap every day.
We are the consuming fire. We are forty days
and forty nights. These are the laws we live by.

These poems are offered free for your enjoyment. If you use them as part of an event, meeting, educational or liturgical setting, please consider tipping the author.

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