me.avoda str
By Marcela Sulak:



Dear Ahasuerus, it is eleven-thirty am and my number is one hundred and eighty-six. I feel the lack of communion striving for a higher purpose in this government assistance office, and it is beyond sadness and feet and the distance of aircraft and tires and inner-tubes on turgid rivers in midsummer with aluminum cans of beer. It’s not just the ones who pick discarded numbers from the floor and say they missed their turn. The flower-selling prepubescent children sniffing glue in paper bags outside the margins of the magazine I’m reading remind me of the laundry I hung up that must be dry by now, filled as they are with warmth and wings and snapping.

This office is a fine line. The wind from the open window rustles the pages of my magazine, pumps the lungs of paper bags, lifts the plastic shopping sacks discarded in the fields, fills the vacant sheets.

When God withdraws, we all must breathe a little harder.


Are these hosts the kind of people who refrigerate red wine? I wasn’t breastfed, I smelled different. I never learned to desire consolation prizes. The water hisses from the tap, sliced by the tips of lettuce leaves. The cut-crystal conversation turns on the tiniest incisions. So little of it is about you, you have to address yourself as one of your second persons. At the click of one of our host’s glances, each woman at the table presses forward, like a bullet into the chamber. It goes without saying, this is how I see myself among the women, Dear Ahasuerus, you fuck.


One of the trafficked prostitutes in the Tel Aviv shelter always carries a book with her. When she’s fucked up she reads it upside down. It’s a best seller, a thriller, a romance, so it doesn’t really matter the order of the events. She can describe them in detail afterwards, which she’ll do for you when you ask about her life.

To pay, to bring to a conclusion, bring to perfection, to make peace.


I am not a piece
of cake—sometimes
the eternal á
la mode, which is
to say, I am
your mouth, not your whole
mouth, just the part
that, when full, worries
about its next meal.


The eggs must first come
to room temperature,
which is to say for
everything there is
time. While the cotton
opened white fists at her
window, one by one
my grandmother beat
six eggs by hand till
they were stiff. The hands
of the kitchen clock
tapped each fat minute,
the ready spoon curved.
The frothy batter
she poured herself into
the tube pan steadied itself
in the wood-fueled oven
and lifted. Those who ate
a single bite were filled
with an inexplicable
happiness. Sometimes
that was enough.

(Today’s poems originally appeared in The Bakery, and appear here today with permission from the poet.)

Marcela Sulak is the author of two collections of poetry and has translated three collections of poetry from the Czech Republic and Congo-Zaire. Her essays appear in The Iowa Review, Rattle, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. She directs the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University, where she is senior lecturer in American Literature.

Editor’s Note: While living and working in Israel for the fall semester I have become inspired by the local English-speaking writing community, as well as the plethora of work being done in translation. I hope to be able to share some of the gems the local writers and translators are creating here with you on this series, beginning today with Marcela Sulak.

Of course I am interested in Sulak’s work, in part, because of its biblical interests and midrashic tendencies. Ahasuerus, for instance, from today’s first piece, was a Persian king and husband of Queen Esther. He chose Esther for his queen after kicking out his first wife, Queen Vashti, for refusing to display herself naked before his guests. The process of choosing Esther as Vashti’s predecessor was more like a casting call; all of the eligible virgins were gathered together, put through months of rigorous beauty rituals, then paraded around for Ahasuerus to choose his favorite from among them. Today, Sulak’s bent on this tale has her channeling these young women on display, noting the lack of communion among women under such competitive circumstances. Sulak eloquently sums up the experience: “It goes without saying, this is how I see myself among the women, Dear Ahasuerus, you fuck.”

But beyond the biblical explorations lie moments of brilliant lyric and philosophy. Moments that stop you dead in your tracks: “When God withdraws, we all must breathe a little harder,” “I am / your mouth, not your whole / mouth, just the part / that, when full, worries / about its next meal,” “which is to say for / everything there is / time.” Sulak’s is writing that considers the historical, the human, and the astronomical through the lens of the day-to-day. Her vivid imagery brings to life the scenes she paints, while the ideas she plants take the reader from the microscopic to the telescopic.

Want to read more by and about Marcela Sulak?
Marcela Sulak’s Official Website
Guernica Mag
Drunken Boat
The Cortland Review
Verse Daily

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Managing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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  1. Maya Elashi says:

    Yofi, Sivan. Wonderful choice! I won’t even go off on a didactic diatribe about the contents of the second paragraph of the editor’s comment. But, “Those who ate a single bite were filled with an inexplicable happiness. Sometimes, that was enough.” is magnificent!
    Toda, Maya

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