The Birds I May Not Eat – A poem for Parsha Re’eh (Aliyah 4)

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You may eat every clean bird.

Deuteronomy 14:11

As a vegetarian, most of this text
does not apply to me, or, as the Rabbis say
my thoroughness is to be commended.

As a reader of Torah, and occasional
conversationalist with Rabbis, it’s important to note
they may not have actually said that.

I may eat every clean bird, but
regardless of whether they’ve bathed
I choose not to.

I may not eat an Eagle.
America, America, America!
I may not eat a bat.

And I won’t. They’re the cutest
of the flying mammals. Just turn them
right side up and their little furry faces

rival any puppy, or at least hamster.
I may not eat a pelican, and why would I?
The taste of a long neck has never been my thing.

I may not eat a raven, and I wouldn’t dare!
I wouldn’t want to anger their community.
I don’t know who would dream of eating an ostrich.

The looks they give you in every situation –
The guilt would be irreconcilable.
The stork too…they do so much work

propagating our species, it wouldn’t feel right
to have them for dinner. Then there are the birds
I’d never heard of, but the bird watching community

would be horrified if I even considered it –
The hoopoe and the atalef – how about the ossifrage?
Who are these birds?!

I may not eat the magpie or the cormorant –
I’m glad to see the owl on the list.
They know so much more than I ever will

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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