Shibboleths – Joshua Gottlieb-Miller

“It’s like I was a coin and the world
was a magnet,” Owen says,
after riding a bike for the first time.

Sun’s down to that magic height
where the live oaks catch its blaze;
we just get its shine. Then

he’s racing again, yelling
at me not to chase him.
He has my thick skull,

laugh, eyelashes; my dad
called me Tank,
I call him Pinball—

the world is a magnet I think
about grinding my teeth
when he was a baby, still

he careens, whistling
along, speeds like air
through G-d’s lips.

We shout for him to stop;
will he carry my hunger
to please teachers

and parents? My over-thinking,
craving, my inability
to agonize?

He’s got my legs,
his eyes,
I know it’s wrong

to look for belief
in a lock of hair,
any natural ease of faith

I lack. Will my skepticism
be his patrimony? Who am I
to tell him who we are?

“We are overtime!” Owen yells,
rides infinite imperfect circles,
around us, un-alone.


Joshua Got­tlieb-Miller recently received his PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hous­ton; this poem comes from his dissertation, Dybbuk Americana. Cur­rent­ly Joshua tutors for Hous­ton Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege, is a week­end desk atten­dant for the Menil Col­lec­tion, and teach­es a senior mem­oir work­shop for Inprint through the Jewish Community Center. Joshua lives in Hous­ton with his wife, Lau­ren, and son, Owen.

One thought on “Shibboleths – Joshua Gottlieb-Miller

  1. Anita Jawary

    Joshua I really like this poem. It cycles between the physical and spiritual realms and I can feel the speed. Thank you.


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