Ava Nathaniel Winter

Torah Study


One who wishes to see the beauty of Rabbi Yohanan should bring a brand new silver cup and fill it with the red seeds of the pomegranate and place around its rim a garland of red roses, and let him place it at the place where the sun meets the shade, and that radiance is something like the beauty of Rabbi Yohanan.

        —The Babylonian Talmud

Imagine a headpiece

nestled in a drag queen’s hair:

the silver chalice fishbowl-large,

brimming with garnet arils,

glistening as she lip syncs

to Lizzo: the juice ain’t worth the squeeze

if the juice don’t look like this.

The queen’s wig too

must be garnet—like the robe

Rabbi Yohanan wore

to set himself apart

from the righteous and the wicked

at his resurrection—

synthetic strands teased

into flame, cascading

from the rose-rimmed chalice,

ignited by a sun

which hangs still higher

above the queen’s head,


eighteen thousand lumens

from its nesting place

among the branches of a bonsai

whose roots weave

through the queen’s hair

to uphold all this splendor

as she walks, perfectly erect,

davening only with her hips.

Ava Nathaniel Winter is the author of Transgenesis, a winner of the National Poetry Series forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in August 2024. Her poetry has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Best New Poets, Poetry International, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. Ava holds an M.F.A. from the Ohio State University, where they served as a Poetry Editor for The Journal and received an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. Ava holds a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, where she teaches in the Department of English and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.