The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Jeff Friedman



Certainty floats in the air like a noisome odor. You can smell it oozing from the skin, rising from

hair follicles. You can hear it sweep the room with its sturdy bristles. It tells you there is only one

truth and what could be more convincing than its calm demeanor, how its words whistle through

its lips? It cautions you to beware of the future. It is written, Certainty says, but where is it

written? If you’re smart, it says, you’ll keep your mouth shut and lie low. Then some of your

troubles might not find you. Certainty comes in a gust of bad wind. It kicks up the leaves in fall,

knocks them down in summer. It catches the dust in his net and pours it over your head. It

circulates among your friends, warning them to keep their distance. Certainty backs you into a

corner, ripping into your chest with his savage jaw. Soon, you bleed out all your doubt.



Jeff Friedman



Nothing enters the room in a gust of wind, a falling light, a flaming shadow. Nothing grabs you

by the shoulder, causing you to wince. Nothing prophesies nothing good for your future. In your

case, nothing says, nothing is a bargain. Hold onto your self as if you are holding on to nothing.

Pretend that nothing exists and you won’t be disappointed. Pretend that nothing doesn’t exist,

and nothing will surprise you. Try to imagine nothing. Does it encircle you? Is it the sky empty of

darkness and light, and therefore empty of sky? When you embrace everything, nothing

embraces you. Nothing rings a bell. Nothing deals the cards, plays all your hands. Nothing

believes everything you say. Nothing touches you with all its tenderness and tears. Nothing tells

you what you want to hear. Nothing takes it all back and gives it to you again.




JEFF FRIEDMAN's seventh book—a selection of prose poems, fables and mini tales—is forthcoming from Plume Editions (with Madhat Press). His poems, mini stories and translations have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, New England Review, The Antioch Review, Poetry International, Plume, Hotel Amerika, Flash Fiction Funny, Agni Online, The New Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poets, New Flash Fiction Review, The New Republic and numerous other literary magazines.  Dzvinia Orlowsky’s and his translation of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014. Friedman and Orlowsky were awarded an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship for 2016. Nati Zohar and Friedman’s book of translations Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poems of the Bible, was recently published by Singing Bone Press.



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