If Shabbos is a bride, why are there tears?
the candle dances, a flame a whisper,
the smoke the wispy remnant of a prayer;
a daughter’s dreams a mother’s half-held hope:
Heaven may not have them, we’ll gather sighs-
angels do not need the soul within the heart.
O, daughter, your tears refract the world,
the blessing flows between your covered eyes
the healing of our future in the pass
of hands that circle, gather in the light.
Healing comes in the blink of an eye -
seeing worlds in multiples of life -
tears sowed in sorrow shimmer in Shabbos
when daughters sing and mothers rejoice
-there is a generation yet to come
an awe-filled wonder of how we’re here-
oh woman of valor, survey the years
and with your smile, sanctify the spheres.
She sits on the couch, feet tucked under
a cushion, though mommy said not to,
and curls a strand of hair around her finger
in rhythm to the syllables pronounced
with care; she leans over the book balanced
on the arm rest - five is too young for glasses
except such eyes blind the betrayals of age.
How can I hear what angels cannot see?
She smiles me over, finger to her lip:
“Mommy’s crying because she loves my book.
she says I read for all the children here
and doesn’t mind about the cushion now.
I chose the book myself because I saw
another butterfly and thought it’s time
to kiss the world hello. Jews have gardens
now and pillows for our feet” - she wiggles
her toes - “and bread and boats and songs” - she stops,
wrinkle browed she puts a finger on a line
‘daddy, you promised to bring me books’
then at me wiggles the finger, “like you.”
She closes covers, eyes, and sighs, then stands.
“I like the pictures but don’t know the words
it’s hard to read but I promised I would,
if I could bring it home I would not cry
and I have done all I said, and been good,
now mommy’s making challah with her tears
so I will help it rise above her fears.”
Pausing, “I wonder what it’s like in there,”
she points, “where every soul becomes a prayer.”
Friday night the shtetl shul prays silent:
stars - Shalom Aleichem - welcome angels -
peace descends in waves of words and candlelight;
after prayer the men linger in hats
and formal coats and talk of crops and croup,
of news and nu, vos macht du - how are you -
the gentle time before the journey home.
Unnoticed slips a not-yet-man, a boy,
a student of the day, to the stand
where the leader sings and in loud self-discourse
declares his name to the wall, or heaven -
his voice thunder trembles through the talk,
a lilt off-key a warning note the soul’s
askew. Held-breath we listen to the rave,
a mind in quiet rage against itself,
declares the Shoah of its soul in words
that shock the Shabbos in us all - inside
‘my struggle’ turned around. He ends as if
in prayer, head bowed, descends, raven-rimmed eyes
turn, search, expecting nought, or all, a plea
perhaps. In echo of the still small voice
the rabbi says ‘ok.’ The not-yet-man
with thanks, deflates, and prattles through kiddush,
a Sabbath band-aid on his tortured mind.
I hold my grandson’s hand as my father
held mine, palm to palm with the warmth of life
in the fingertips of reassurance,
each step a question or pointing “look” -
Oh how many whys a day beholds
trucks and cats, jackets and trees -
time flickers, and I think of all the prayers,
word searches for the soul, I have struggled
to solve, and here in the gentle grip of trust
the answer flowers in the here I am
the impulse overflow that stills the thought.
How simple when my father’s shadow walks
in his namesake’s joy and I in ghost-mind walk
as zaydes walk on Friday nights, when heaven
and earth have come to rest and angel songs
are all that’s left, and blessings for each step.
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