You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

Channel Esther: Where To Begin

Esther Cohen
April 22, 2015

by Esther Cohen

Last week I taught a writing class (my classes are all called GOOD STORIES, a title that fits every class) in a place called a Half Way Shelter. People were transitioning from homeless shelters, and given studio apartments and services. Over 300 people, men and women, live in the building right on Times Square. A good friend of mine lived there for thirteen years. Where to begin was their question.


Where to Begin

A man in class he’d been
in jail most of his life
out now trying now
what he wants from his life
get a job to get
an apartment even he said
a girlfriend he has
severe arthritis he takes
so much medication that he
is often tired even so he said
he wants to try. But where
to begin? How he asked
do I tell my story?
People often begin
with their mothers
he said. Maybe I could write
about how I met my mother
when I was twenty six.
It was an accident.
We were both
in a shelter and
my friend Maurice said
Igor you and Mila
look alike. Maurice
was psychic so I
didn’t take him
seriously but later
in the elevator I
said to Mila
do you have any children?
Three she said.
I’ve never seen
any of them.
What are their names
I asked her.
Igor’s the oldest.
He was born on
July 12 1978.
That’s my birthday
I said her.
Is that
where I

Esther Cohen is a poet and fiction writer who serves Jewish Currents as our arts and public events consultant.