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At the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino

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flaming feature

A new poem by Shai Afsai.

 There are flamingos  
 in the Flamingo Habitat 
 at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino – 
 eight pink birds, 
 each balancing itself 
 on one twig-like leg.
  
 And there are  
 a few full-length mirrors 
 fastened to trees 
 in the Flamingo Habitat, 
 which the flamingos 
 gaze into attentively. 
  
 I ask the caretaker, 
 who is aggressively  
 chasing away ducks 
 and feeding the fish and other birds, 
 why there are full-length mirrors 
 in the Flamingo Habitat. 
  
 She explains that flamingos  
 like to see other flamingos 
 around them, 
 and that as four of the eight flamingos 
 have been temporarily removed  
 for medical care, 
 mirrors were placed in the habitat 
 in their stead. 
  
 And my first thought 
 is that flamingos are like Jews, 
 sharing in common  
 this absolute need 
 to be surrounded by their own. 
 There have been entire months  
 when I’ve not made it  
 to synagogue or Sabbath meals 
 in Rhode Island, 
 but as soon as I’m off 
 to a new city or country, 
 I’m compelled to seek out Jews there. 
  
 But on second thought, 
 flamingos are not like Jews. 
 For the flamingos don’t spend  
 all of their time 
 gazing in the mirrors. 
 They look around. 
 You learn only so much 
 gazing in the mirror. 
 Most American Jews know nothing
 about Jews in Israel.
 Most Reform Jews know nothing
 about national-religious Jews.
 Most Conservative Jews know nothing 
 about haredi Jews.
 As S. Ansky noted, 
 'there is no other People who can speak so much about itself 
 and yet know itself so little as the Jews.'
 Some episodes of Fauda and Shtisel 
 don’t change this.
   
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Shai Afsai’s articles and poems have appeared in Anthropology Today, Journal of the American Revolution, Poetica Magazine, Reform Jewish Quarterly, Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, and Tablet Magazine.
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Stephen Taub
Stephen Taub
1 month ago

That was just amazing. Do you have a book I can purchase?

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