a synonym for living

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TREE OF LIFE

for the eleven Jews murdered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 27, 2018; for congregation Dor Hadash; for my parents; for A.K.

The week after our family friend is not shot
that Saturday morning in synagogue, 

she invites us over for dinner. I’ve known
her and her husband long enough

that their names have become a single song, 
syllables knit with an and—in your life

you’ve probably known a dozen of these songs,
the rhythm of decades of marriage. 

The song would have split 
if she had been shot that day, but

she was late to Torah study. Turned 
and ran when she heard the shots. 

Before dinner, she and her husband pass 
shallow dishes of cashews and green olives 

around the living room. There are not many of us, 
three other couples and my parents, 

but I have known them all since I was a child, 
and I, at thirty-five, am the only adult child at dinner,

the other adult children of the couples
far from our hometown, living their lives—

none of our parents have been shot. I
am sitting at dinner with them. 

We are eating a lightly dressed salad and stuffed peppers. 
It takes a while to make a stuffed pepper. It is a careful thing. 

In Latin, her name means bird—our friend
who was not shot. Our friend, the bird,

has an easy face. A poem might say
she has a sweet crinkle in her voice, 

something one looks forward to hearing,
like the air that slips between a foil wrapper 

and a hard butterscotch candy one has kept in their purse
for a while, to be surprised with later. 

I have kept this poem at bay 
for a while.        And still, 

when I am visiting Pittsburgh,
I shudder away from the corner 

where the Tree of Life synagogue still stands,
empty now three years, drive different routes in order

to not see the building, to not have the flash 
of bullets, air splitting and splitting and splitting. 

But our friend the bird and her husband still live 
down the street, and must pass the lost temple

all the time. Our friend’s name also, in origin, means desired. 
The week after she was almost shot, 

she invited my family and our friends over for dinner. 
Our congregation was targeted because we were helping

a refugee organization. Our friend had us over
for dinner. Snipers stood on rooftops 

when we filed into a different synagogue
for the memorials. Pittsburgh stopped and stood 

and held itself, watching the eleven hearses. We were sick
with crying. I warned my parents away from crowds of citizens 

gathering to sing—they went anyway. Jewish tradition tells us
to have no nails in coffins—to have a plain pine box, 

held together with wooden pegs made by hand. 
It is a careful thing, to make a stuffed pepper—

it means that you will make something balance. Our friend was not killed and so
she invited us to dinner. At dinner, there was laughter.  

Before the meal, we did not recite any particular prayer, 
but in the stuffed peppers, 

there were a few meanings of life. They were warm. 
They were filled to the brim. 

appears in The New England Review 43.3

upcoming class!

on October 29th, online — I will be guest-teaching at Sustenance, talking about sonnets ! Seating is very limited, so register soon! https://bit.ly/3qqKQXk

from the current issue of The Threepenny Review, Fall 22

Two new pieces in wildness

read all of issue 30

Drop in !

DROP IN classes for “Shelter in Place: Writing Where We Are” are now available ! Sign up for for any Sunday you’d like to join us – you are welcome to sign up as far in advance as you’d like! http://sophieklahr.org/classes

I’m so grateful to have forthcoming work in Threepenny Review, The Offing, wildness, The Cincinnati Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, and The Adroit Journal, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the particular art of submission. If you find submitting your poetry to be stressful — I am happy to do it for you — my editorial services include Submission Management! Simply fill out the Query form on my site, and let’s talk about how I can be of service.

UPDATED class schedule!

Shelter-in-Place: Writing Where We Are now starts June 19th, and runs for 8 weeks! 
Follow the link here for Registration!  Full fee is $320; drop in classes will be available for $40 – students must register by the Thursday prior to class. 

In this 8 week generative poetry course, we take the term “Shelter-In-Place” as a directive to “Take Solace in Place,” investigating how to more deeply see the places we live and how we live in them. What does it mean to be here, now, and what before this particular moment in time might we have overlooked? Each class includes, related to the idea of Place, a short group meditation, in-class prompts, and reading of poems by authors such as Natalie Diaz, Donika Kelly, Ilya Kaminsky, and Carl Phillips. Open to ages 15+. SUNDAYS, 3:30 – 5:30 pm EST

Summer classes (and Early Bird Tuition ! Now until May 13th! )

Summer Poetry workshop begins May 27th ! This all-levels poetry workshop—limited to seven participants—provides an opportunity for constructive criticism through discussion and written feedback on poems in-progress. Participants will be assigned group peer critique and provided various readings over the weeks. Open to writers ages 17+.  FRIDAYS, 3:30 – 5:30 pm EST

Sign up for “Shelter in Place: Writing Where We Are” before May 13th for an Early Bird Tuition Special! In this 10 week generative poetry course, we take the term “Shelter-In-Place” as a directive to “Take Solace in Place,” investigating how to more deeply see the places we live and how we live in them. What does it mean to be here, now, and what before this particular moment in time might we have overlooked? Each class includes, related to the idea of Place, a short group meditation, in-class prompts, and reading of poems by authors such as Natalie Diaz, Donika Kelly, Ilya Kaminsky, and Carl Phillips. Open to ages 15+. SUNDAYS, 3:30 – 5:30 pm EST

Follow the link here to register for classes!

the latest

I’ve got a poem in the latest Cortland Review, addressing mental illness & psychiatric meds.. :

The next session of Shelter in Place: Writing Where We Are is open for registration! Make sure there’s poetry in your summer – starting June 26th!

Current & Upcoming!

*new class* : “The Practice of Prose (Poetry)! This 6 week course explores the history and practice of prose poetry, during which participants will come to understand just exactly why prose and poetry are not antonyms! Reading from Bashō to Baudelaire to Claudia Rankine, students will participate in discussions and in-class prompts, with the two final weeks of class acting as workshop sessions. Open to ages 15+, SUNDAYS, 3:30 – 5:30 EST, March 27th – May 1st.   Register Here!

Also, “Shelter in Place: Writing Where We Are” is back in session and you are invited to swing in any Friday afternoon. Individual drop in classes are now available, and rates are on a sliding scale.  My schedule has recently opened a bit, and I’m again available for manuscript consultations, office hours, and more! Have a look at my services page for more info, or just drop me a line. :-) 

Shelter in Place — starting soon!

“Shelter in Place: Writing Where We Are” starts again on February 4th

3 weeks: $129; 5 weeks: $210( you do not need to choose consecutive weeks!); 10 weeks: &400

No poetry experience necessary, only curiosity! Each class includes, related to the idea of Place, a short group meditation, in-class prompts, & discussion of poems. FRIDAYS, 3:30 – 5:30 pm EST.

Register Today! Limited Space available — only 6 seats left!

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