Untitled poem 4/10/20

I was drunk at a party last Tuesday at this guy Ben’s house,

it was one of those end-of-the-world ragers that only make sense

in that messed-up American fraternity mindset, even for old people like us

that are 42ish going on 50, and I’m sitting on a couch that’s ripped and

falling apart watching a man with the same characteristics hit on a woman by

doing that thing where he cocks his head a little to the right and

puts his hand on her knee and talks about stocks for God knows how long

like she’d find it as interesting as a damp Reader’s Digest on the bathroom floor

and I’m sipping my eighth beer of the evening wondering

if I actively stopped trying to be good if I would actually be good

and the man stops talking to the woman and comes to sit down next to me,

close enough so I can tell he’s overdressed,

far enough so I’m not disturbed by the whiskey on his breath,

places his hand on top of mine and tells me that

he’s a friend of Ben’s and I must be the one that broke his heart

because I am too beautiful to be sitting here alone like this

and our hands are still touching when I tell him if you want to know who I am

you should try a better opening line and he moves his hand to my knee

and says he has an apartment on the coast, there’s a room with a view,

a refrigerator with oranges and a window where you can hear

the waves crash on the shoreline and I should go with him,

just for the night and try out the box springs, make sure they work,

but I take his hand off of my knee and tell him it’s very nice offer

but this, I point to the gold band around the finger to the right of my pinky,

prohibits that, and not two minutes later his hand is on the next so-called divorcee,

and mine is back on my condensated, half-drank Corona, wiping water on Ben’s couch,

wishing I had the confidence to say yes to something out of the ordinary

and tonight is Thursday and I’m thinking about the man in the suit and his hand on my knee

as I sit on a chocolate-colored pew at Yom Kippur services

with my husband and my daughter

and the rabbi says avinu malkeinu that we will forgive

that we will pardon and move past all of our iniquities

and I should feel so full, my hands are being held by members of my congregation,

there is bread in the shape of clouds floating on silver platters outside

waiting for us and only us to greedily grab it in 30 minutes,

but what I want is to be on the coast, the wind whipping my hair

as if I were in a Pantene ad, and eating oranges while staring outside a window,

listening to the waves crash on the shoreline.

How it ends

The 20th century king who yells for gunpowder. Sells it at a bazaar. 

Spits it in customers’ faces. Electrifies his fiancee’s kid. Reframes 

the story so he’s correct. The overworked fascist who says, “Release

the trigger” and overpopulation is solved. The young dark-haired waitress

who cries every time her baby cries. Flirts with disaster. Can’t 

afford her electricity bill. Scared she’ll never have a real job. Unable to 

smell anything except for encroaching war. Peeks through her fingers. 

Sucks in her stomach. Cuts her hair with kitchen scissors. Shuts her eyes 

and says, “Fuck off, for real. I mean it.” Reports her boyfriend for abuse. 

And then her boyfriend who loves her but really didn’t mean to do anything 

wrong because he’s so in love and it was only one time anyways says, 

“I love you but I really didn’t mean to do anything wrong because I’m so in 

love and it was only one time anyways.” Goes to gun shows on the weekend. 

Slams the door on her hand. Puts his feet up on the couch and says, 

“I don’t know why they don’t pay you more.You do just fine serving me.” 

Follows trends. Supports capitalism. Buys thousand-dollar sneakers. 

Doesn’t get the point of 1984. Walks out of Marxist discussions. 

Dances with disaster. Cries in bathroom stalls. Reports the news to his liking. 

Made out with a guy once and denies it. Joins the other side. 

Tear-gassed the neighborhood. Inhales it and forgets her name.

Covers her baby’s ears and says, “This is nothing major — we are used to it.”

Leaves them. Fights in the war. Comes back with heart palpitations and 

ice cream sandwiches. Goes to the restaurant to find her. The manager with 

the tragic backstory introduces him to his daughter. Who pulls out a stool 

for him. Who tells him, “Drinks are on the house.” Who heads in the back 

to do whatever people who work in restaurants do in the back. The 

younger dark-haired waitress sits with him. Picks up his hand. Places it in hers. 

Hugs him as he asks where her mother is. Tells him that she wanted to fight for 

democracy and left after she got her GED. Tells him that she was stabbed

with a dagger on her first day, forgot that people were using those now, 

didn’t train her right, wanted to see you again to tell you that she loved you.

Stops. Looks at the tough, graying man in front of her. Refuses to look back.

Runs in the back. Sits on a toilet. And bawls.  


A Middle Eastern Poem

after Eileen Myles

I have already figured out what I’m supposed to do but it’s probably because it’s been told to me before since I listen and don’t respond. My mother said that I can’t call myself Middle-Eastern because then they’ll think I’m a terrorist. Who is they? In the Middle East I’m not allowed to wear my shorts up to there or tell a man I’ve had it up to here. In the Middle East they call me a frantic feminist because I talk wildly with my hands and I refuse to serve men who refuse to serve me. In the Middle East men in scary uniforms are allowed to stop our bus take our IDs and make sure we’re all supposed to be here and this is totally normal. In the Middle East I can’t say that about the president even if it’s true because what if he’s listening and did I know that I could go to jail if I say one more word. In the Middle East there is no such thing as an opinion if you’re below the age of 24 and a woman. In the Middle East there are no waitresses no actresses only mistresses and missusses. But this is all fine. At least no one will ever think I’m a terrorist. 

Love in the time of heteronormative bullshit 


  1. Surgically remove her feminism for this Thursday night.
  2. Metamorphosize it and take off her glasses, shake her hair out, iron it flat. Pluck her unibrow, wax her pussy, shave her legs, her toes, and her hands, tweeze her chin hair until it bleeds.
  3. Ecstasize her cheeks with your lips, drown yourself in a wishing well and stay there. 
  4. 3-D print her heart, place it in your hands, and remind yourself how that feels, over and over again.
  5. Strategize a collusion of chaos, find yourself at Chick-fil-A on Sunday, and, this one’s important, give her that look no girl thinks actually exists.
  6. Unzip her epidermis–remember–funny business is always appropriate. Cover bases 1-3. Hit it out of the park. Your team wins. 
  7. Perform an Olympic-gold-winning figure eight around The Talk–don’t be weird about it. Act like a politician. Blindfold your disdain and bathe in a pool of her pity. Appear platonic publicly.  
  8. Repeat.

it’s all hype 

when i peer into the eye of an orange blossomed illusion

within the sunshine state of emergency

beside the cranium of a sabal palm

mickey mouse reminds me

to go swimming in swampland 

while i still can

because this, 

this capitalist air-conditioned hell 

is where people come to die


turn off your signal 

lock your gated community like it’s your first grade diary

and remember:

“in god we trust”

conflicting messages

adam sandler, adonai, & a brisket bagel brunch with bubbe followed

chinese food on christmas @ doctor goldstein’s

exactly eighteen minutes late but oh my g-d i brought

four questions, four cups of wine, 36% off of forty years in the desert,

greed, & highholied hummus 

he asks what am i, chopped liver?

i respond jew-ish jon stewart said kaddish kiddush kidding,

kiss that siddur like you mean it

tevye said l’chaim, l’chaim, to life

my ancestors remind me to

never pass up a spare penny on a sewer grate &

either find myself a nice jewish boy 

or a noodle kugel, because, oy vey, i can’t have both

my parents say

pretzel bacon cheeseburger, prince of egypt, pepperoni pizza on passover

it’s okay to be

never quiet, as long as your rosh is screwed in right,

spend shabbat with seinfeld, smash that glass, don’t forget that salt water = tears,

keep that tuchus to yourself, &

unveil, uncover, & undo yourself only in the month of aviv but

wear a wig when drinking manischewitz 

spread exodus on your sandwiches & slap lox on the torah

because why in yahweh’s name would you want to be a zionist anyway 

Background Noise

“Wiretapping and Eavesdropping” is a New Hampshire law that states that it is a felony to listen and record others’ conversations. This poem, while could be a cause for imprisonment in New Hampshire, was legally written in Florida.

Ow, motherfucker!

I know it’s only 12:30 but this is the longest day of my life

It wasn’t the reason I was married to him

You can always take what you need in the mornings and stick what you need in the car

It’s the first one that you updated, right?

I’m told to respect myself

Want to sit here first? Let’s sit here first.

Mmmm — it starts with a B

I guess we can look at it together

You didn’t do the conversion you just did the reboot

If you need to call me, just call me, I’m always available

Seven is such a weird number

Lights out, we can find one

I think she meant to give me 4 dollars as a tip, but she gave me 44

Maybe I’ll see you before you move away

I’m listening to you, I just don’t want to talk about it

Do you want this?

A pre-habitable zone, arguably so you don’t exist

It looks like it’s on steroids, like on steroids

I forgot all about it, I forgot all about it until I was on Academic Team, then I watched the factory video and I was like “Yeaaaaaah!”

Pero que pasa, ella —

Free? What? Gimme!

Keep that under your nose

We’re getting the stuff shipped, like you suggested

Come here!

He was eating my hair

That dog has gotten in so much trouble

That’s hilarious

Why the fuck do you guys not want to?

What are the odds?

I’ll be here tomorrow and Wednesday — will ya? I’ll stop by then

Oh my god, oh my

You can go by yourself

They got us between a rock and a hard place

You too!

It was solid, the one that I’m in


Holy shit!

You gonna come with me, or no?

She got real sad, but I was like “Mom, it’s my birthday”

That happened with your predecessor, with Pablo

I think it’s a lot better, we’re doing better

Twenty-one ninety-nine

I tried to circle back around but there were too many people in the way

No, those are socks

This is what I wear now!


Is that what you want to be, you want to be the one percent?

We don’t get that anyway, we’re here on shifts

I want to know everything he thinks before he deletes it

What am I doing?

What’s wrong with modern love?

I can pinpoint the exact moment I became obsessed with the idea of a relationship.

I’m seven years old, sitting on a soft, tearing couch in my friend Christina’s house the day before Thanksgiving. Christina somehow already has the newest Disney Channel movie in her possession — High School Musical — and as she began setting up the DVD player, I know could not have been less prepared for the movie that shaped my own laundry list of expectations for what young love “should” be.

The biggest emotion I was feeling before watching the movie was a sense of rebellion; High School Musical wasn’t on my parents’ list of approved movies, which included, among others, the Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof (but only the first half), and the Wizard of Oz. HSM was something different; it was a movie that, unlike a great majority of movies that I’d already been exposed to in my young life, dealt primarily with the romance between two people, two people whose ages I was more or less nearing.

Sitting comfortably squished on the couch after Christina figured out the DVD player, I was completely hooked, definitely more enthralled than I should have been by Troy and Gabriella’s seemingly fateful relationship. As one may recall, our 21st Century Romeo and Juliet meet serendipitously at a ski resort, end up going to the same high school, then, even though he’s a basketball player and she’s a mathlete, end up, in no time, becoming boyfriend and girlfriend. As a girl already as nerdy at seven as Gabriella appeared to be on screen at 16, I took copious notes. If she could find love, then so could I.

The formula seemed simple enough. Step One was to find an available male, and at Palm Beach Gardens Elementary School, there were plenty. I set my sights on Daniel, a Russian blonde who always wore knock-off Converse and a shirt that said “Class Clown”, both of which at the time, I found very alluring. For our inaugural date, we went to a nearby park with our mothers watching close by, which, according to my diary, was “sooo embarrassing.” Because of this, spending time with Daniel soon began to be limited to the classroom, where my mother could not come in the way of our growing feelings for each other.

Our relationship began to falter when I realized that although I liked Daniel, he did have a fatal flaw: he was a Jehovah’s Witness. This meant that he couldn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, the day I’d hoped he would confess his true love for me after I gave him a tri-colored highlighter as a token of my own love. I wasn’t prepared to leave Daniel, but like Gabriella, I had to “go my own way.”

As I made it through middle school and finally reached high school, I was in my own kind of HSM fantasy, attending a magnet arts program in my district. To my dismay, my first and only “boyfriend” and I did not meet on New Years’ Eve while singing karaoke, and the next guy I liked had an attribute that High School Musical leaves out about art school boys: they’re usually gay.

When high school ended, and I still had not been in a “real relationship”, I questioned my self worth, as an 18-year-old usually does on the daily. Why was it that people who I deemed to be “less worthy” of a relationship were able to experience all that I hadn’t? Why wasn’t I good enough? What was wrong with me?

Answers to these questions do not lie in my own personal issues, but the generation in which I grew up in. I know myself now: I’m a complete romantic. I want a Troy Bolton to support my nerdy aspirations and get excited to talk to me on the phone. And I’ve had that, but for very short snippets of time. The reason as to why this is just as much society’s fault as it is mine: more than ever before, the hunt to find someone special has become a much wider playing field.

With this in mind, I read Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. I expected to find it humorous, as a great majority of his work is, but instead, I found truth, wisdom, and a sense of sincerity about what my generation has begun to experience in the increasingly complicated world of sex and dating. Even my mother picked up my copy, read it cover to cover, and walked into my room the next morning and confirmed my suspicions, saying that I’d “probably never be in the relationship I want to be in.”

This is due to one of the major issues that Ansari found in that searching and choosing a person to date is that first verb itself, the searching, or this somewhat new concept of extreme searching, has become hyperactive in the past few years. We have more options to see what is out there in terms of finding “our person” than ever before, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

When my grandparents met and fell in love in the 1950s, they felt as if they were right for each other, and because they really didn’t know where else to look, after a couple of months, that was good enough to get married, and stay married, for almost 60 years. Additionally, my grandma and grandpa lived very close together. According to research done by Ansari, proximity was a huge factor in terms of being with someone for an extended period of time. If you lived nearby to your secret crush, and quite literally was the “girl” or “guy next door” chances were much higher that you’d be together for much longer, than if he or she lived even a couple towns over.

Today, with platforms like Tinder, Christian Mingle, JDate, Grindr, and more, we have so many options. If one lives in Florida, you can find someone that is hypothetically perfect for you in Brazil, for example. Ansari believes this increased opportunity to find someone absolutely anywhere tips the scale as more negative than positive. In Modern Romance, he states, “…no matter how many options we seem to have on our screens, we should be careful not to lose track of the human beings behind them. We’re better off spending quality time getting to know actual people than spending hours with our devices, seeing who else is out there.”

All of this feels so very Black Mirror, a show which takes certain aspects of what we perceive as normal in the 21st Century, and blows it out of proportion with a sense of realism, showing that we can mess up our lives with one small hitch if we let ourselves. An episode of the show in the fourth season depicts a world in which those who go on dates are already aware of how much time they will have in their “relationship,” and thus proceed accordingly. This gives way to the idea that there is this “best” person out there for us, and if we keep searching, we will eventually find him or her. Though in theory, it seems logical to want this “best” and “greatest” person, Ansari believes this mentality is toxic.

“That’s the thing about the Internet,” he wrote in Modern Romance, “It doesn’t simply help us find the best thing out there; it has helped to produce the idea that there is a best thing and, if we search hard enough, we can find it. And in turn there are a whole bunch of inferior things that we’d be foolish to choose.”

So with all that do we as a society go from here? Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel believes that we have incredibly high expectations for what a potential partner should be. In her book Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic, she states that today, it seems we have an increased need for someone that has “a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity. At the same time, we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling.”

And this is true: we want our significant other to be everything for us, and that can be exhausting to the point of breakage; it’s so much to ask from just one person. To realize that someone cannot be the absolute manic pixie dream we want them to be is the first step in recovering from this so-called syndrome of perfectionism. No one is going to have every quality we want them to, and that’s okay.

Why do we talk with our hands?

I realized I had a problem when I was ten years old.

That sounds bad. I don’t want it to be misconstrued that I was some kind of elementary school meth addict who actually did all of the activities mentioned in a pop song from the early 2000s (think Tik Tok by Ke$ha). But, we did exhibit similar qualities, meth addicts and I, even despite the fact that we were not engaging in any of the same pastimes; for we both had an obsession that could only be remedied by way of something that we felt was euphoric. For me, however, instead of a substance, it was a quality: I was constantly talking with my hands.

I was no more than acutely aware that I had these Italian grandmother-like tendencies until fifth grade. I had been invited to dinner at my friend Jessica’s house one night, talking wildly and flailing my hands about as usual, until she probed me in the middle of a conversation, saying, “I bet you can’t have a conversation while sitting on your hands.”

As a true Italian grandmother would say, “Sounds crazy, no?” I’ve always been up for a challenge, so, true to character, I tried it. I put up my hands as if I were about to be arrested, lowered them to the chair, proceeded to sit on them, and tried to continue what I was saying (which, as a ten-year-old, was probably something in regard to the Hunger Games books) without pulling my hands out from their spot where they rested, for once.

Continuing my spiel about Katniss Everdeen, my hands remained in sleep mode, pressed against the cushion of the chair. My arms, not knowing how to react when my hands were given a break, went into overdrive. I began wiggling around, my arms moving forward and backward, and I looked over at Jessica, who was smirking.

“I knew you couldn’t have a conversation without your hands,” she said, very clearly satisfied with herself in a way that only ten-year-olds could be.

That next summer, we went to Turkey to visit my mother’s family, and I faced a similar reaction to my restless hands. I was telling a story when I saw one of my uncles lean over to my mom and whisper something in her ear, only hearing the word “hiperaktif” escape his lips, which in English means “hyperactive.” Mom later explained to me that my uncle did not believe that it was normal for someone to move their hands as ferociously as I did; he thought I might have ADHD.

This all led me to ponder: Why is it that I talk so much with my hands? It clearly wasn’t genetic, and yet I’ve been doing so for at least the past nine years of my life. I had so many questions. Where did this come from? Was there science behind it? Psychology? Or was it a sociological idiosyncrasy that I adopted from watching “Friends”?

Susan Goldin-Meadow of the University of Chicago has some answers. Dr. Goldin-Meadow is the leader of a laboratory at UChicago that focuses on certain aspects of psychology including cognition, development, education, linguistics, but its main focal point is “the study of nonverbal communication, specifically gestures.” This was right up my alley; I felt like I’d struck gold.

Reading on, I learned that Dr. Goldin-Meadow’s interest was piqued in gestures when she was a Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania. There, my new hero noticed a young deaf boy using his hands to communicate in a way that was not sign language, in a method now known as “homesigns.” She was also “the first to study them seriously and to show that they resemble language in form and function.”

Continuing her investigation, Dr. Goldin-Meadow began to research “co-speech gestures [that] hearing people produce.” These are the kinds of gestures that I make frantically on the daily, and she took note that people’s hands either “mirror their words” or can “say the opposite of what we want them to.” If that seems confusing, try to imagine the typical hand motions that one might make to describe if it was raining: lightly moving one’s fingers up and down, while bringing one’s hands up and down at the same time.

If I use my fingers and hands at the same time, this gesture can (somewhat) visually depict small droplets of water coming from above to below, and can be thought of as one that mirrors one’s words. Now, if I were to talk about rain while thrusting my hands at waist-level, and moving them back and forth while I talked about rain, that would be a gesture that says the opposite of what I want it to. If you were an outside observer, you won’t be able to tell from that gesture what I’m talking about.

Is it better to match your gestures to what you’re saying or mismatch your gestures with your words? According to Dr. Goldin-Meadow, it’s better to mismatch; after conducting a study with children who did one of the two types of gestures, those who mismatched their hands and their words were more open to learning new things. Gesturing can tell us not only what’s on our mind, but can play a role in changing our minds for the better.

So I guess being an Italian grandmother at heart might have some positive repercussions after all, because, no matter how hard I seem to try, I can’t stop moving my hands while I speak. It’s become a part of who I am in a way that is innate to breathing, and (although my Turkish family might feel differently), I wouldn’t have it any other way.


About me*

*Originally published in Hatter Life Blog

God, I never know how to begin things like this. I avoid writing about myself whenever possible; I guess that’s what seven years of journalism training has taught me: never ever put yourself in a story, you are not as important to the reader as the schmuck you’re interviewing.

My name is Ruby Rosenthal. I’ve been a student journalist for seven years, a realized writer for ten, and a human being for eighteen and a half. I was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida. For those of you reading who have no idea where that is, don’t worry, I usually tell people that I live “like two hours north of Miami”, or more recently, “do you know where Trump golfs? Yeah, about 15 minutes north of that”, and they can figure it out from there.  

My mom’s from Izmir, Turkey, and my dad’s from St. Louis, Missouri. They both teach every single math class you could possibly imagine at local community colleges in South Florida. As I was growing up, I was constantly asked if I wanted to be a teacher or if I wanted go into math in general. Me pursuing a career in the humanities and deviating to basically the opposite side of the academic spectrum has been disappointing for many people in my family, especially one of my mother’s brothers, who would really like me to be a doctor just because I took AP Calculus my senior year of high school, but honestly, aren’t there enough Jewish doctors?

So, like the invention of chocolate chip cookies, me becoming a writer was a bit of a happy accident. However, instead of preheating my oven to 350 and having a final product that is now enjoyed by millions, my story is a bit less sexy. Similar to most writers, I was first a reader; I was very involved in other people’s stories before I had any idea I could be capable of writing my own. My parents, as aforementioned, are very much into academia, so I was taught to read at three years old. Once I learned I was able to read silently by myself (quite an exciting revelation, let me tell you), I began to spend a lot of time in my room with Ramona and Beezus, Amelia Bedilia, and the kids who could travel back in time with the Magic Tree House.   

I first was informed that I had the ability to write better than the average kid when I was in the third grade. We had to do a practice test for the Florida Comprehension Assessment Test (known affectionately by fellow students and teachers as the FCAT) to prepare for the actual exam in the spring. The type of essay? Expository; every third grader’s nightmare. The topic? Write about a time you were scared and explain what happened. It was fall 2008. My Sumer was spent visiting my family in Turkey. On the way back to Florida, we had stopped in Dusseldorf, Germany, because at the time, there were no direct flights from Miami to Izmir.

No one in my family speaks even the slightest lick of German, and this was pre-iPhone, pre-GPS, pre-WiFi everywhere. My mom, dad, and I had gotten lost in this city we’d never been to, and it had begun to rain. Scratch what I said about every third grader’s worst nightmare being the FCAT Expository essay, for this third grader, it was never being able to come back to the United States. So that’s what I wrote about — that process of freaking out being in an unknown place and not knowing how to find my way home — and my teacher, Ms. Beauchamp, was astounded. Personally, I was confused. I found writing to be easy and learning the rules of grammar to be somewhat obvious, just like how my parents view Calculus, Statistics, Differential Equations, and similarly difficult mathematical concepts to be incredibly simple. But Ms. Beauchamp saw something in my work, and believed in me, believed that I do something great using the power of my words.

With the help of both my parents (who were happy that I had found that I had a Thing, even if it wasn’t their Thing) and a love of writing, I auditioned and got into Bak Middle School of the Arts for my sixth grade year and Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts for my ninth grade year, majoring in Communications Arts at both institutions. I continued to read books and distinguished myself artistically, writing everything from essays to journalism, poetry and creative nonfiction, and short fiction.

At Stetson, I am majoring in international studies with a minor in creative writing. This choice I made to focus on these areas serves as my own personal identity crisis. Do I want to be a foreign correspondent journalist or do I want to be a novelist? Do I want to be the one to interview the people whose art has changed the world or do I want to be the one to make the art that changes the world? My parents have asked why I cannot pursue both, yet that does nothing but confuse me further. Today, I am a writer for The Reporter, Stetson Today, and the blog you are reading right now. I write poetry and short fiction in my little free time, and I contemplate if I’ve made the correct choice to pursue what I have.

However, at the end of the day, no matter what I choose to continue, I will probably still have people texting me in the middle of the night asking me to edit their work for class. But that’s just one small price to pay.