Squirrel Hill Blues

T Storm Heter

Composed Nov 2018. Posted July 17, 2019

Dedicated to Lori Kaye, who was murdered on April 27, 2019 in the Poway Synagogue shooting, which took place six months to the day after the Tree of Life Shooting in Pittsburg.  Lori rushed the shooter, placing herself in front of her rabbi, saving his life and others.

Dedicated also to the victims of the Vel d’Hiv roundup in Paris, which took place 77 years ago, to the day. Zikhrono livrakha, may their memory be a blessing.

Self-care day gets sidetracked by non-self-care

Another shooting

Bloody survivors crying

Talking about the guns

News always names the gun

Some details we don’t need

The conservatives hope it’s a “middle easterner”

But…it’s a white marine

A dude whose had “domestic issues”

The day is fucked

I’m exhausted from stress of

Reading about bad shit

Trump destroys our country

One executive order at a time

I see the stress on the faces of my students

They are just trying to get by another day in


11 Jews die in synagogue

I’m not over it

I’m not going to get over it

Two weeks ago

And suddenly my Jewishness

Feels like a weight

Around my neck

My girls, I ask them

How do you feel

M. says

“I knew this would happen”

I. says “I’m okay”

These two girls grow up in a world

Where being Jewish

Is met with


Thinking of my Grandpa Bud

Fighting Nazis in Amsterdam

After the war he brought home a Luger

From a dead Nazi

Summer 2017

Unite the Right

“The Jew will not replace us”

Fall 2017

Al-right gun nut

Harasses me

Threatens me

Doxxes me

My school says “don’t talk about it”

Three weeks ago

At Penn State

I drive three hours

I am there three hours

I drive three hours

Back home

To talk about it

I talked about it

I am talking about it


Back at work

A three-hour diversity meeting

Banging my head against the wall

Against the wall

Ahmed, the wall

Just like she says


Mixed with rage

And confusion

And impotence

Political impotence

Can’t act

Can’t move

Get dressed and shave

Is that self-care?

The self-care routine breaks down

The air is molasses

I can’t move

Can’t breathe

The news makes me



…watch more news

Is this my escape?

Tamer Nafar

Chuck D

These are my fuckin heroes

Touched by fire, by god

Where is that fire in me?

Where is that god in me?

I try to say: write philosophy

As if that’s my rap, my poetry

There is a lot of shit inside of me

The feeling inside of being beaten down

Of being a survivor

The guilt fucks with your head

Why me?

Why did I survive?

At what cost

Did I wake up alive today?

Survivor is a noun

I need the verb

The violence is in my soul

It’s in my brain

Feeling his angry breath to this day

Deep sadness inside me

The death of a brother

The sadness of a Christian hell

The sadness of a father never satisfied

The sadness of a mom’s broken nose

The sadness of a mind cage

Don’t talk

Don’t talk about it

Don’t talk

Don’t tell

Not my besties


At a breaking point

Feeling like a freak

Inside this skin

There’s no protection

Chuck D protected me

PE kept me alive

Kept me on the road

Kept me from driving into the sun

Chuck D, the father I needed

Seeing death on the TV

Dead TV

Death TV

Murder in a synagogue

An angry white kid


This violence

Is a daily affair

Name the

White boy violence

That infects American veins

Talk, talk, talk

11 Jews die in synagogue

I’m not over it

I’m not going to get over it

Two weeks ago

And suddenly my Jewishness

Feels like a weight

Around my neck