A Precept in the Flesh

As many of you know, circumcision is a topic that I find deeply upsetting, and have for many years. On a few occasions, I’ve attempted to explain in prose why my parents’ decision to have my genitals mutilated hurts me so badly, but this is my first attempt to do so in verse.

“A Precept in the Flesh”
January 2015, in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“Our Rabbis taught: Beloved are Israel, for the Holy One, blessed be He, surrounded them with precepts: tefillin on their heads, tefillin on their arms, zizith on their garments, and mezuzoth on their door-posts; concerning these David said, Seven times a day do I praise Thee, because of Thy righteous ordinances. And as David entered the bath and saw himself standing naked, he exclaimed, ‘Woe is me that I stand naked without any precepts about me!’ But when he reminded himself of the circumcision in his flesh his mind was set at ease.” — Menachot 43b, lines 10-11

        King David looked upon himself and was comforted
                by the scar that remained in his flesh always.
        I look upon myself, and I see this same scar:
                indelible, an unveiling that cannot be undone.
        And I am not comforted.

        For David, it was a joy and a comfort from God
                to know that his body was not quite his own.
        My parents and doctor gave me the same sign,
                a token my body is theirs and not mine.
        And I am not comforted.

        David took comfort while bathing, but I only
                suffer from seeing my nakedness.
        So I must wrap myself in clothes and my precepts now,
                hiding from shame at the precept they forced on me.
        And I am not comforted.

        Praying to gods I believe in; demanding of David’s one god
                for release from this suffering:
        Wishing my soiled and cursed flesh might melt away
                to trouble me no longer.
        For I am not comforted.