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Written by Charles Rammelkamp. Charles Rammelkamp’s latest book is entitled “Mata Hari: Eye of the Day,” a sequence of poems about the life of the famous exotic dancer/spy (Apprentice House). A chapbook was published last year by Finishing Line Press entitled “Mixed Signals.” For more on Jewrotica by Charles, see Kitty, Reunion, More Jewish, The Merkin, and Forever Jewish. “Glasscutter” originally appeared in Charles Rammelkamp’s collection, “The Book of Life.”
At the age of nineteen I was circumcised,
the summer before my sophomore year.
Tender red warts had puckered the flesh
where the shaft meets the head.
They secreted pus, and they bled.
I was ashamed to tell my parents,
so my brother did instead.
My father looked at my penis.
A grim expression contorted his face.
Embarrassed as I was, I guess,
he saw it might be something serious.
So we consulted several doctors.
The family surgeon suggested circumcision.
My father told me it was my decision.
I had always secretly coveted one.
They were easier to keep clean.
The gunk that ringed the collar
under the skin like sewage in a drainpipe,
known by the playground names,
cheese or smegma,
did not clot the necks
around those dry, circumcised glandes.
Mine was purple and slick to the touch
like a jellyfish or some sort of slug.
Along with hygiene went the social stigma.
Skinovers were definitely lower middle class:
the unarticulated prejudice saw them
as an atavism from the dim ancestral past,
a leapfrogging back past centuries of civilization
when primitive people lived in unsanitary conditions,
dying by the thousands in cholera plagues.
In the locker room in junior high school
my merciless classmates singled out a boy
with a skin hood coming down over his dick,
a freckle-faced kid named Teddy Benway.
They called him “Glasscutter”
because of the way the skin
hooked over at the edge of his penis
in a needle-sharp point.
By contrast the muscular black kids,
like Waverly “The Whip” Mohead,
had these thick, long, snake-like dongs
bouncing off their thighs like pythons.
Their pricks stood out
as objects of whispered awe and admiration
among the newly pubescent white kids.
My dick basically went unnoticed,
a garden variety uncircumcised phallus.
A dozen years later I converted to Judaism.
Part of the process, the covenant of Abraham.
If I hadn’t had the operation as a teenager,
I would have been required to have it then.
The sign of a man’s inclusion in the chosen people.
I had a “token” circumcision instead.
The mohel sprayed a local anesthetic
on the ruffled skin collar
and lanced the loose flesh
while other rabbis muttered the prayers.
After the conversion ceremony,
the immersion in a ritual mikva,
the rainwater bath in which
women cleanse themselves
after monthly menstruation,
my future in-laws took me to lunch
at a kosher restaurant.
I had converted because
I was marrying their daughter.
I felt no pain, no passage
through fire to another shore,
only a little disoriented,
self-conscious, maybe, like Teddy Benway,
and later in the evening
when I went to bed,
I was surprised to see
the bloodstain that darkened my underwear,
a dull and lifeless shade of red.