My cousins live fifteen

Minutes away. By foot.

As a child I was told

we had the same face,

but it looked so much better on them.



If you behave,

Your bunk wins a visit to Cousins’ Cafe,

Their ice cream, the antidote

to hidden homesick tears.



10:17 p.m., on the eastern edge of

Jewish Jerusalem.

My parents ask the driver’s name, waiting

On the sidewalk.

“Ahmed,” he lets the sounds

Float out the car window:

Ah—one of the few

Arabic combinations

Hebrew speakers never perfect

Although some keep guiltily trying.

Med—the first sound of the

Arabic word for city

And the Hebrew word for country,

Like together his name proclaims

How Jerusalem ought to be pronounced,

Semi-gutturally: his city, his country.

When I ask my parents why

They refused his ride

I know the answer is some variation of

“He’s a cousin,” “Nischt fun unzera,”

Or “Yael, it’s just too late.”



Tuesday, let’s say it was a Tuesday

My cousin died on a Tuesday

But I didn’t hear until after

Midnight, up


“Literary criticism”

Philip Larkin’s Aubade—

Mom stumbled across my room,

plopped on the nail-polished carpet

And asked me to shut my computer.



Hapsburgs, Tudors, Abrahams.

So much sex. Cousins.



No allergies,

won’t eat chicken, bread, sauces, blue substances, carrots, corn on the cob, lentils, egg whites, or sun butter. Eager to escape

tired information, we explode our folding chairs with laughter.

He laughs, too,

Then that pause,

“The next one is serious.”

The three of us, at attention.

And our camp director reads the parents’ plea:

Eva’s cousin took her own life last April. We don’t know if it will come up, but please try to be mindful.

My peers ask in a counselor mode of collected, whether

there is more information.



My cousins live thirteen

Hours away. By plane and taxi.

A different nationality, so they claim.

For nine months, I dropped in whenever.

They gave me extra hugs

On homesick holidays, and on ostentatiously carnivorous Fridays, almost

accepted my propensity for veganism.



Some people count cousins,

1st cousin, 2nd cousin, 5th cousin.

I have forty-one first cousins.

Jonah was my first cousin who died.

Some Jews assign words, afraid to use numbers.

Like instead of one to ten,

Liturgical little nicknames:

Save1 Your2 People,3

Bless4 Your5 Land,6

Shepherd7 And8 Carry9 Forever.10

They swim from lips

to imaginary nametags,

As we hope to save our kin

From—I dunno—dying?



Pressed with how to express affection,

We settle with

“I love you

like a brother,”

yet never say “like a cousin,”

is that not the next best relation?



My cousins live eighty

Minutes away. By car.

From ages 7-11, I loved to

sleep there. They’re

too conservative to own movies,

So we’d make milkshakes

And write plays.

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