Margaret Mackenzie Schwartz
The Wrong Half, p.3


‘We’ means there were two of us, two little girls in that house where God was a word up for grabs and under wraps all at once, where the Goy Boy's only alters were Wagner and Sartre and my mother let us drink ginger ale and watch the Rose Bowl parade while she took the Christmas tree down every New Year's day like clockwork. And one was dark and one was light, and one was soft and one was hard, and one was quiet and one was loud, and one was afraid and the other never was, but nobody knows anymore, now that they are grown, quite which one was which.

I made words but I wished I could make music instead, because music, unassuming, dies with the breath, with time. I made words and I even told people that's what I wanted to do, and I sat for a long time in front of notebooks and laptops and in my chair with something ostentatiously grand like The Brothers Karamazov and even through all that I failed to notice that sometimes when I did those things I meant them.

Every spring I made a seder and every spring I ended up in tears, estranged and guilty. How can you miss what you've never possessed?

I fasted by myself one Yom Kippur. I lay in the bed and waited for the sun to set and then got out of the bed and ate a famished meal alone at the counter. The next year I went to shul and choked back tears at those black letters I can't read and those beautiful chants that come from voices inside me that I don't know how to make sing. I met a rabbi. I went to shabbat services. I helped make a reform service on Rosh Hashanna with other women who were writers and Jewish sortof half too. I fasted again, and this time I went to shul too, and some of the songs sounded a little familiar because I had been there, I mean my body, the shameful part where the difference is written, where the blood is mixed but the only part that will learn to sing because nobody taught it its lessons, it keeps silent.


Faith starts where imagination ends. Half requires faith in your own flesh and blood. A leap into the solid from the abstract; trust in what you can touch against what you fear.


I am talking about coupling, about my other half, my sister, who is so different from me that she makes me doubt I'm real. I am talking about a history that I do not understand but whose constellation tears at my every step.

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Image: Siona Benjamin, Finding Home #24

Margaret Mackenzie Schwartz received her MFA from the University of Iowa in 2003. She is a Fulbright Scholar to Argentina where she is translating the work of Macedonio Fernandez.

Siona Benjamin is a painter from Bombay, now living in the US. Her work reflects her background of being brought up Jewish in India. She received a fellowship in painting from the New Jersey Arts council for 2004.

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March 2004

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The Wrong Half
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God Had a Controlling Interest
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Eliezer Sobel

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Our 450 Back Pages

David Stromberg

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From previous issues:

Ron Mohring

Carrying Light into Dark Times
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

What the World is...
Jay Michaelson