Poem | Ketubah

An abstract graphic in black and white

The ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract that dates back to Talmudic times, is an object of ritual beauty. For many couples, it represents the promise and obligations of a shared life, even as it provides for the contingency of divorce. But what does it become when that shared life is over? Jason Schneiderman’s “Ketubah” weds two partial texts to create something whole out of estrangement itself.—Jody Bolz, Poetry Editor

KETUBAH

I can’t remember
what ours said
on this day of joy
and celebration

though I’m the one
who picked it out
according to the law
of Moses and Israel

its greens and reds
inspired by Rothko
in the month of _
in the year of _

a modern touch
in our Jewish home
measured since
the creation of the world

that now is gone
or is yours without me
I offer two hundred zuzim
and even the shirt off my back

we married on the fourth day
it was legal for two men
I was brought from
my father’s house

to marry in this country
to live with you
as husband and husband
I’m glad you kept it

this ancient text
rewritten for us
not an agreement
without consideration

or a mere formula
of a document but
something to prove
how much we loved.

Jason Schneiderman is the author of four books of poetry—most recently, Hold Me Tight—and editor of the Oxford University Press anthology Queer: A Reader for Writers.

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