A New Covenant

Because we have discussed male infant circumcision on this blog before, a poem in progress:

They say it’s a shame we didn’t do it
when we should have, that probably you’ll need it
later in life, when it’s more complicated,
more painful and, worse, you’ll remember it.

They say women won’t want you, that you’ll not
forgive us, ever, especially me, and that
the Jews who’ve died for what it means to be cut
will have died in vain because we left you complete.

And I know I can’t not burden you with that.
You have to, have to, resonate with what
your body would have meant to all that hate,
and you will—but sitting here alone tonight,

my amputated life aching anew,
I’m grateful for all that’s merely whole in you.

Cross-posted on It’s All Connected.

This entry posted in Gender and the Body, Jews and Judaism, literature. Bookmark the permalink. 

10 Responses to A New Covenant

  1. 1
    Mandolin says:

    I can tell it’s in progress because it’s not quite as finely tuned as your usual fare yet — but what a wonderful concept, and what a wonderful gift for your son.

  2. 2
    Bond says:

    Beautiful poem, Richard.

  3. 3
    Lexie says:

    I just had a baby boy 5 days ago, and we chose not to circ (as we also didn’t with my older two sons). I still can’t believe it is such a big deal and we still get such comments like these. (As a woman who grew up in North America where even the examples in my anatomy books were circed, I also always try to slip a hint to other women who say things about preference that once you get over the temporary, “oh, that’s kind of weird” thing that there are very certainly certain–er–advantages for the woman to having an intact partner.)

    We’ve never had a problem with the older boys. One thing that I think is funny is that when I say to people, “they can decide when they are older to circ if they want”, they say “well, no one EVER decides to do that!” I think, hmmm, that should tell you something, no?

    Anyway, nice poem. Especially for me this week as I welcome my new son.

  4. 4
    nobody.really says:


    Between the opening (“A New Covenant”) and the close (“merely whole”), I feel like I’ve been hit by a swinging punching bag; it knocks the wind out of me. I had the same reaction to first reading the Letter from a Birmingham Jail. I feel complicit.

    Some day clever kids will earn extra credit for writing, “While it’s often reported that A New Covenant was first published in the New York Times, in fact it had previously been published on Alas, a Blog. (A “blog” was a type of literary and cultural magazine popular during the early days of electronic publishing….)

  5. 5
    sylphhead says:

    Brown noser. :P

  6. 6
    nobody.really says:

    Oh sure, go ahead and laugh. Someday I’ll be recognized for my keen capacities for spotting genius, and you’ll be telling everyone you knew me when….

  7. 7
    Simple Truth says:

    Congratulations Lexie and Richard on your family additions! (I’m assuming in Richard’s case, so just consider them better late than never if that’s no longer current.)

    I think this is a great start to what will be a very moving poem (it already is, even in its “unfinished” state.)

  8. Thanks, all, for the kind words. And just for the sake of accuracy: My son is now 11. I started this poem a long time ago and picked it up to try to finish it starting some time last year.

  9. 9
    Mandolin says:

    Bar mitzvah present? ;)

  10. 10
    Barbara says:

    My little friend (now 4) is also intact. My husband agreed that circumcision was unnecessary. Since we are not Jewish, it doesn’t have as much symbolic importance, but I am struck by the ferocity of emotion in the poem. If that’s what you have actually faced, all I can say is wow — it’s not right.