“Hanukkah Dinosaur” by Sarah Etlinger

Sarah Etlinger


Judaism is trending again, my friend Jared tells me,
so I wonder if I should buy Dinokkah,
the inflatable Hanukkah Dinosaur,
who is bright green with a blue T-shirt, cartoon
menorah blazing on the front, and a big blue
dreidel lying on its side. He wears a white yarmulke,
which you can only see from the back.
Everything is lit from the bottom.
Imagine, I respond, you too
can have a Hanukkah dinosaur in your front window or yard.
I want him the way adults want things
to remind themselves they were once children.
I do not buy him.
Lately people are asking me
if I’ve noticed how anti-Semitism is getting worse
or if I think people aren’t afraid of anything anymore.
Bob asks me quietly, and is very concerned.
Last week I told him do not read any of the tweets
or the headline in the NYT calling a blatant attack on Jews
purported anti semitism—instead of what it actually was,
actual anti-semitism. Do not, I said, think harder about
the Jewish Space Lasers or the LA bridge protesters
or Adidas.
Another friend texts me about Kanye West
and says he’s a fucking asshole looking for more power,
and I say Yeah, but we took down our mezuzah this week
for the first time ever. She is silent for several minutes
before she tells me about the football game. She doesn’t know
what to do or say about any of this.
They all want something different
for me, and when someone asks what they can do,
I want to tell them to buy this dinosaur,
so I can rig him up on my small unruly yard
for everyone to see as they pass by, on their way to elsewhere,
as they whiz past warm glowing plastic faces
of the tiny wan Jesus and Mary and Joseph, dingy lambs
weary at the end of the shepherd’s crook, the molded
shepherd’s face hidden by his modest plastic cloak–
the dinosaur bright and garishly green, proud and smiling
instead of somber—a wholly joyful amalgam:
two ancient entities older than all this grass and pavement
and even this darkening sky, its hollow core
full of air and light quietly humming.

from Poets Respond
November 6, 2022


Sarah Etlinger: “The inflatable Hanukkah Dinosaur lawn decoration caught my eye while I was scrolling social media this week, and I had to pause to send it to my friends—especially in the context of growing threats of antisemitism and violence towards Jews. Stories like the ones about widespread synagogue threats in New Jersey are unsettling—especially for Jews who, like me, have grown up always feeling outside the norm. The poem I’ve written grapples with the very real threats to my existence along with the desire to fit in and be proud of my heritage. It also reflects the care and concern of my friends, but also gives voice to the very real barriers to their understanding.” (web)

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