When I went sight-seeing, I couldn’t
get over how much the eroded rock
looked like layers of corned beef
and pastrami, the redder rock, the meat,
the paler, in-between, outcroppings,
layers of fat my mother made a point
of asking me to ask the guys at the deli counter
to cut. It should never have been an issue.
Sometimes they did. Other times, they didn’t.
My mother would let me know how I did each trip.
They took advantage of you, she sometimes said.
Of course, I could barely reach across
the counter by the hot dogs and knishes
up front to hand the guy the money
and get back the list my parents gave me.
This was a case of Jew screwing Jew.
We were hungry, willing victims.
This happened just about every week.
My wife and I walked the Southern Rim.
The weather-beaten, time-worn rock
just hung there like a photo.
Next to the fencing which kept most people
from acting like fools and walking out on ledges,
there were small desert trees and bushes,
like sprigs of parsley topping off potato salad.
When I told my parents I thought I was an atheist,
they said the world will always
remind me I’m a Jew.
It turns out, they were right.
(First published in LIPS Magazine)