The Book of Jewish Blessings


The Book of Jewish Blessings


My mother reads by torchlight
under the covers at the Church
boarding school in Southport.
The book of Jewish blessings
a secret trail back to her culture.
My mother knows the prayers by heart.
It’s the book she loves. So worn
it is held together with a piece
of cloth tape—a gift from her grandfather.
I imagine her tracing the ink drawings
in the book: a moon hugged by clouds
over a sea filled with hundreds of minnow
brushstrokes. On the previous page:
a child’s bed and the same full moon—
as she mouths the Shema.

Was this after the day the girls poked
my mother in the backs of her calves
for not kneeling during church?
Or after the evening meal
where the cook tried to shame her
by serving her roast beef on a silver platter
because she couldn’t eat pork?
Everyone turned to look at my mother
as the silver tray was placed in front of her.
She cut up the beef and shared it around. 

Now, as she reads the blessing book
the sheets are ripped from her head.
‘Please don’t confiscate it—my grandfather
gave it to me.’ The housemistress snatches
the book, scowls at prayers she cannot
translate. Tells her: ‘Don’t do it again or I’ll take it
for good.’

My mother still looks at the book—kept close
by her bedside. When she brings it out
to show me, I photograph its yellowed pages, read
the Shema, drink in the drawings, revel
in her school-girl defiance.


Find out more about Anna Jabobson as part of QPF2017 here.

Anna Jacobson

Author: Anna Jacobson

Anna Jacobson is a Brisbane based poet, writer, and artist. Her poetry has been published in literary journals including Cordite, Rabbit, Australian Poetry Journal, Tincture and Verity La. She is one of The Red Room Company’s commissioned poets for ‘Poetry Object 2017’. In 2016 she was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Young Writers and Publishers Award, the Scribe Nonfiction Prize and the University of Canberra Health Poetry Prize. Anna was shortlisted for the 2015 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Creative Writing) from QUT and is currently undertaking her Master of Philosophy (Creative Practice), specialising in poetry at QUT. Anna’s website is