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 writer, and artist. In 2018 she won the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and the Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award. Her first full-length poetry collection Amnesia Findings will be published by University of Queensland Press in 2019. Her poetry has been published in literary journals and anthologies including Cordite, Rabbit, Meanjin, ABR’s States of Poetry Queensland and Verity La. Anna’s poetry chapbook The Last Postman (Vagabond Press 2018) is part of the deciBels series 3. In 2017 her unpublished memoir How to Knit a Human was shortlisted for the Emerging Queensland Writer – Manuscript Award. Anna holds a Master of Philosophy, where she specialised in poetry at QUT, a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with studies in Creative and Professional Writing and Graphic Design) from QUT and a Bachelor of Photography with Honours from Griffith University. In 2010 she won the illustration section at the Children’s and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators Conference. Her website is