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"Fear and I" and "Grandfather"
Nueva Communications

 

Editor's Note: Eighth grader Jordan G. recently earned a Gold Key in the Bay Area Scholastic Writing Awards for his series of poems, "Grandfather." Additionally, he shared his spoken word poem, "Fear and I" at the March 21 World Poetry Day celebration at the Hillsborough campus. Jordan shares his poems, in both written and spoken form, below, along with an artist's introduction for each. 

Grandfather
I wrote this set of poems about my grandfather who fled the Holocaust. While he did survive, his father and many of his friends and family did not. To fully embrace and take pride in my Judaism today, I realize that acknowledging the pain and suffering of past Jews is important. While the state of anti-semitism has definitely improved since then, synagogue bombings and attacks continue nationwide and that's an important fact to address.

Listen to "Grandfather":

Thunder Over a Nation 

A thunderstorm of darkness 
accumulates over a nation: 
a leader of darkness descends 
from the sky. I was born a boy 
in a world that whispers.
                 
Outside the orphanage, Dad 
said This is all for the best. How 
did he die? I’m not sure. I hear 
the camps devour people whole, 
sweeping the last crumbs of life 
under the rug of genocide.
 
I scuttle like an ant from town
to town where a bakery sits. 
For shelter I bake: blistered 
hands kneading sweet bread. 

We used to make Challah. 
Challah: sweet cinnamon 
fell into my hands while 
snow fell on the windowsill. 
Dad said Freedom should 
never be taken for granted.
 

When the soldiers enter 
the bakery, I am an owl,  
still and quiet in their red 
shadows. 

Their boots dig into the flour 
on the floor, I can hear it. 

I run from the bakery when 
sun rises the next morning. 
I run from this country when 
sun rises the next morning.  

 

Customs official 

A teenager approaches, 
says he is boarding a boat. 
Name? Ragged clothes. 
The boy is circled on registry. 

I could report him. 
I could be a hero. 
I could leave work. 
I could be with family .

I imagine the screech 
of a bullet ringing 
through this cold day. 

Would the rain keep 
pouring then, pouring
over a limp body? 

Would the world notice? 
Or would the blood blend 
into the rain forever? 

The cross around my neck
grips my sweaty fingers. 
The preacher said 
God rewards those 
who do the right thing.
 

I am a poet forging
the papers, spelling 
the words of freedom. 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stone of Meaning

A boy turns to his mom: 

Did Grandpa ever come 
back before he died? 

A man digs a hole. I am 
surrounded by slithering 
roots and cold pavement. 

Do you think Grandpa 
missed his old house? 

The apartment in front 
of me has cracks. The 
tulips smell of lavender.  

Do you think people 
will read the stone? 

My dates of existence 
and expiration inscribed 
on my hardened face. 

Some read me.
I wait to be read. 
I want to be read. 

Let it be known: I represent 
a person and a spirit. I am 
struggle, success, pain, glory. 

Roots expand underneath, 
not shackles but an anchor 
of tranquility and peace. 
I shake, I quake, I break 
into a new world. 

A new world that flashes 
by like a life does, leaving 
a stain for the next generation.

Let it be known: let it be known. 

My Story

As I place my menorah 
in the window I think 
about my grandfather. 

I think about freedom.
 
What is freedom? 

Freedom is a filter, letting 
some in and others out.  

Freedom is a synagogue 
without a metal detector.  

Freedom is a collage, pieced
and stitched together over time.  

Freedom is telling others 
I’m having a bar-mitzvah. 

As I place my menorah 
in the window I think 
about my grandfather.

His spirit lays in these wicks, 
in this window, in this room 
right now. I continue his tradition 
even if he abandoned it. 

The rain pitter patters outside
but I don’t worry it will erase 
anything. I am cozy right 
where I am, finally at peace.  

What is freedom? Freedom 
is a choice. Will we choose it?

 

 

 



 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear and I 
I wrote this poem about the fear I was feeling in different ways. For example, those include wearing nail polish as a boy (who knew self expression could make anyone feel unsafe!), living in a mass-shooting-plagued world, and being Jewish in a world that has historically and continues to treat us with violence. I see poetry as a way to share my feelings with the world in an engaging way, as well as learn about other people's experiences and find common ground.

Listen to "Fear and I":

It’s 1998: Matthew Shepard is tied to a fence. Thought body was safe until pistol banged on head. If violence dealt the blow then hate left him dead. 

I’m at a gas station with fingernails painted the color of sweet cherries. A man and woman stare, laugh, and whisper until my face is either red from embarrassment or bottled up anger.  

I scan for warning signs. Large truck. Bumper sticker. Rifle logo. I camouflage behind the aisle like a chameleon. 

If that’s how chameleons stay alive, then what happens when the leaves rustle and branches shake and the veil of conformity disappears like dust? 

I imagine the fall of fangs on its skin or my skin or skin risky enough to be uncensored in small town America.

Fear and I are intertwined. She sees me and I see her. We don't pretend to be strangers. 

I enter an amusement park and an armed guard surveys the crowd. How can I enjoy my night when threats stain the air?  

Suddenly: Blue and red lights. Sirens. Screams. Fear lurks in every corner I turn and every person I see. She thrives in crowds. 

Sandy Hook and Orlando rattle my thoughts. Which is another way of saying I could be on a new victims list tomorrow in a speech about gun violence that I never thought I would need to contend with. 

Fear and I are intertwined. She haunts me from the news stories I’m scared to turn on at night that I know I could have been on that night. 

I ask Mom as a kid why our synagogue has a metal detector. How do you tell an eight year old about society’s thirst for violence? 

2009: a plot to bomb a Bronx synagogue is exposed. 2017: Charlottesville chants “Jews will not replace us” with torches and swastikas. 

2018: eleven are massacred in a Pittsburgh temple. 2019: five are stabbed during a New York Hanukkah celebration. 

How do you tell an eight year old about enslavement under the Pharaohs, about gas and guns, about the shadow of persecution that chased your ancestors since the beginning of time. 

The Pittsburg shooter said he wanted “all Jews to die” so don’t be surprised that I lower my voice when I practice my Hebrew in public. 

How do you tell an eight year old that safety has never kissed his people goodnight. That he lives in a world that whispers.  

Fear and I are intertwined. We fight constantly. If she wins I cower in my shell of lost moments and missed opportunities. 

If I win I chant out loud. A chant so loud I cannot shrink anymore. A chant so loud the birds rejoice on my doorstep. A chant so loud that everything and everyone that’s ever been hunted sings sweet songs. 



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