About Richard Chess

Richard Chess is the author of three books of poetry, Tekiah, Chair in the Desert, and Third Temple. Poems of his have appeared in Telling and Remembering: A Century of American Jewish Poetry, Bearing the Mystery: Twenty Years of IMAGE, and Best Spiritual Writing 2005. He is the Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He is also the director of UNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies.

His Murderer and His Keeper

326044514_cedf60b870_mSome days I can’t remember: Am I Abel or Cain?

Blackberry soda in the afternoon sun. I talk with a friend who recounts her anger and, before she meets with those who aroused it, it’s softening. Blue heart of flame, her eyes purify the avenue, its commerce, its air. I am alive. I must be Cain.

Once, I was a shepherd. Now I am reduced to this: a symbol. My brother discovered his black heart when he heard me in the field, singing, offering the best of my flock. God loves my poetry. In response, my brother stoned me. Because back then no one knew when the soul leaves the body, he pummeled me beyond necessity. Even to this hour he continues, pelting me with rubble, rockets—whatever’s at hand. An innocent man, dead. I must be Abel. [Read more...]

Self-Hating Jew: A Love Story, Part 1

Untitled-1In response to “Never Again: Netanyahu’s Holocaust Cliché,” a recent post of mine on Good Letters, an old girlfriend messaged me on Facebook.  “It was the first time in a while,” she wrote, “I felt proud to be an American…I wonder why the writers of our times don’t instead write about the speeches of some of the truly worrisome leaders of Iran, ISIS, Hamas, North Korea, etc.”

Then, this: “Self-hatred is so destructive.”

Am I self-hating Jew? [Read more...]

When We Die

4837682207_f99b2224d6_mA text from a friend: “What do you believe happens when we die?”

She’d recently lost her son. He must have been no older than his late twenties, maybe early thirties. Over the years, she had told me enough about him that I knew he was troubled. I didn’t really know what kind of trouble. I knew she worried about him, about his ability to take care of himself. I don’t know how he died. I can only imagine.

But I cannot imagine what it feels like to have lost a son or daughter. I want to comfort my friend, but I don’t know how. [Read more...]

Make It Old: A Wedding Anniversary Epithalamion

2900827625_79888750bf_mIn the beginning was a wedding. The ceremony began with light. The ceremony included the separation of water from water, and it included the formation of land followed by the breaking apart of continents. The sound was terrible, and it was heard beyond the sky and in the perfect garden, the expensive venue chosen for the wedding ceremony and reception.

The ceremony began before there was a brain, a human brain, before there were two human brains, even before there was a serpent brain. But there was an alphabet, and there was intelligence, and intelligence arranged the letters to form a world. [Read more...]

Never Again: Netanyahu’s Holocaust Cliché

16072485443_38e6ec0e06_oIn the air, on the air, tunneling through cables, conquering newsrooms, occupying the mouths of pundits, settling in the vacuous chambers of the minds of senators and congressmen, securing and challenging the border of church and state, opening the addled heart and vault of Las Vegas: Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

*

I could tell you how uncomfortable—appalled, sickened—I was as I watched the short man enter the once hallowed halls of Congress and inch his way, from handshake to handshake, down the aisle to take his stand where democracy should stand, where truth should stand. But I won’t.

*

As I write this, it’s been two weeks since the speech, which, in the temporal context of news, is an eternity. As I write this, it’s election day in Israel. You already know, if you follow Israeli politics, the outcome. [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X