“There’s Jews in Texas?” — winner of the 2011 Poetica Magazine Chapbook Contest

Rosh Hashanah, 2011. I arrived home from services in the early afternoon. Already, my day was getting off to a rocky start. I am so smart, I took my car key off my key ring so I only had one key to put in my pants pocket to jingle around during services. When I drove up to my house, I picked up the key ring with my house keys and placed the car key in my car’s cup holder, got out of my car, hit the electric door lock and walked up the stairs of my front porch. Unlocking my front door, I realized I just locked my car key INSIDE my car — and I was rushing to get a bite to eat because I had an appointment in 30 minutes! Oy!

My cell phone rang. I glanced at the display, seeing an unrecognizable area code. “Who’s calling me on Rosh Hashanah?” I grumbled to no one in particular, since I was after all, home alone. The Israeli accent on the other end of the cell phone space said, “Debra? Lashana tova! This is Michal, publisher of Poetica Magazine.”

My heart skipped a beat, maybe two. I wished her a Happy New Year in return and waited. With anticipation, she said, “I just got home from services and received news of the winners of the chapbook contest and wanted to call everyone and tell them the results.”

“Oh,” I said, waiting to hear the good/bad news.

“I’m calling to tell you that you won first place!”

“I did?” I said, “would you mind repeating that?”

“You won! I thought that would be a good way to start your new year.”
I have no idea what else she said to me — I think I asked when the book would be out or the next steps or something, and she said she would call after the high holidays and we would work out the details.

Heart pounding so hard I thought it might bounce right out of my chest — I realized I was happier than I had been in — well, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been that happy, it had been so long. Not that I’m an unhappy person, mind you — but the very idea that my little chapbook, “There’s Jews in Texas?” won a national poetry contest — made me go outside and do a little Happy Dance in the back yard.

The book went to press a week ago Monday, and if all goes well and the creek don’t rise, I’ll have copies in time for Chanukah. Me. A published poet. A contest winner. Yep.