Day 34 of the Omer


DAY 34: UNSPOKEN



At the edge of the sound
wind flaps our coats like sails.

Sand shifts beneath
our inappropriate shoes.

Your shoulder touches mine
there and then gone.

We don't have to try
to match our strides.

Our hearts beat in tune
leaping like lambs.

God is in the words
we don't need to say.

 


 

Today is the 34th day of the Omer, making four weeks and six days of the Omer. This is the 34th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, liberation to revelation.

In the kabbalistic paradigm today is the day of yesod she'b'hod, the day of foundations or rootedness or connections within the week of humble splendor. This poem arose out of a sense of yesod as the connections between people who are dear to one another.

 


Day 33 of the Omer


33: GOOD


The thirty-third word in the Torah
is "good." After each act
of speaking the universe into being

God paused and saw the good.
Light is good. Darkness: good.
Also the balance between the two.

Every geological feature.
Every seed and spore and fern.
The dinosaurs were good, until

they weren't. The Great Auk,
the Atlas Bear...God must spend
eternity reciting I love

what comes and I love what goes.
That every story has an ending
must also be good, at least

from God's vantage where each drop
rejoining the river at the base
of the waterfall is coming home.

 


 

Today is the 33rd day of the Omer, making four weeks and five days of the Omer. Today is the 33rd day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, liberation to revelation.

Today is Lag B'Omer, a minor festival within the Omer count. The syllable lag, in Hebrew, is spelled לג –– the number 33. (So Lag B'Omer just means "The 33rd Day of the Omer.") You can read more about this festival in my Lag B'Omer category.

I learned the teaching about the 33rd word of the Torah from a Hasidic text by the Bnei Yissaschar, and it inspired today's poem.


Day 32 of the Omer


DAY 32: SING PRAISE


Let the gurgle of the coffee pot
as it approaches completion sing praise.
Let the percussive pop of the toaster
revealing the rough and craggy surfaces
of English muffins sing praise.
The jangle of silverware in the sink.
The glide and click of the dishwasher drawer
pulled out to be laden with glasses.
Let the key in the ignition sing praise.
Let the hum of the motor sing praise.
The gavel on the sounding block.
The orchestra of hospital machinery
monitoring blood pressure and O2 sats.
Let the rattle of pills in the jar sing praise.
Let your fingers on the keyboard sing praise.
The paper in the printer, the ring
of the cellphone, the two-part beat,
beloved, of your heart.

 


 

Today is the 32nd day of the Omer, making four weeks and four days of the Omer. This is the 32nd day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

This poem was sparked by one of last year's NaPoWriMo prompts, the one which invited us to write a poem using the poetic device of anaphora.


Day 31 of the Omer


DAY 31: SEVEN STOPS


The Zohar says
after death
each soul is judged
seven times.

Pallbearers make
seven stops
on the way
to the grave

which means
our progress
shambles, pauses
begins again

as though
we were reluctant
to reach
that destination.

Seven: the days
of the week,
the colors
of the rainbow

seven weeks
of the Omer
between Pesach planting
and Shavuot harvest.

For what
will you be judged
when your journey
has ended?

 


 

Today is the 31st day of the Omer, which makes four weeks and three days of the Omer. This is the 31st day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

I learned the teaching that the Zohar says the soul is judged or tested seven times after death from Simcha Raphael's Jewish Views of the Afterlife.


Day 30 of the Omer


DAY 30: WHAT THE CREATOR CREATES


A gazelle, sprinting. The graceful neck
of the giraffe. Seahorses bobbing gently,
fluorescent in their tank. These
are easier to love than the spiny echidna,
the scorpion, the swarm of carpenter ants.

Can I cultivate care for the cactus
which pricks the tender flesh of my hand?
For the kid who shoved my child
on the playground and called him names?
The politician whose positions make me squirm?

Hillel says: even these deserve Torah.
Akiva says: love the other as yourself.
Everything else is commentary, so go
and learn. I want to learn
even from the rattlesnake in the dry grass.

Everything else is commentary, so go
and love. I want to love even the echidna,
even the angry internet troll lobbing missiles
from under his bridge. Cup her spark
of goodness in my hands and gently blow.

 


 

Today is the 30th day of the Omer, which makes four weeks and two days of the Omer. This is the 30th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

In one Mussar paradigm, today is the day to focus on אוהב את הבריות, Loving God's Creations. I found myself thinking about how some creations are easier to love than others. That's what sparked today's poem.


Day 29 of the Omer


DAY 29: LOVE GOD


To love God -- that's a tall order.
Does the Milky Way notice me?
The Horsehead Nebula? If I'm a speck
of dust compared with their grandeur
how much smaller I must seem
to the One Who made them. And yet --

the mystics say the world was born
because God was lonely. She wanted
to sit in her rocking chair and chat
while She knitted the sunset clouds.
How could I not love the One Who whispers
exist! and the daffodils bloom?

 


 

Today is the 29th day of the Omer, which makes four weeks and one day of the Omer. Today is the 29th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

In one Mussar paradigm, today is the day for cultivating the quality of אוהב את המקום, loving God. Our daily liturgy instructs us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might. But what does it mean to love God? That's the question which prompted today's poem.


Day 28 of the Omer


DAY 28: MAGNETIC NORTH


The beacon at the mountaintop
sending in perpetuity:

the original number station, though
these numbers made up words once,

from "when God was beginning"
to "in the sight of all Israel."

But the letters are still streaming,
the fountain unstoppable.

What's the broadcast now?
Be kinder to each other.

A perennial Let there be:
from quarks to the whorl of galaxies.

I keep tuning my dial, listening
through the static

for the tug toward Sinai, step
after uncertain step.

 


 

Today is the 28th day of the Omer, making four weeks of the Omer. This is the 28th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, liberation to revelation.

Today's poem took its form from one of Luisa A. Igloria's prompts from last year. She asked, "What is your magnetic north? Write a poem in which you describe it; also describe how it feels to write/work your way toward (or away from) it." This is what arose.

The two phrases in quotation marks are the beginning and end of the Torah, respectively.

If you're unfamiliar with numbers stations, here's a good introduction. (Bear in mind that Hebrew letters double as numbers.)


Day 27 of the Omer


DAY 27: LABYRINTH



Do you know your way through?
Did you remember your spindle of string?
    Are you watching your own footsteps carefully?
    Is it difficult to keep your pace slow?

        Why are you walking this path?
        Do you realize there's no way out?
                    Will it bother you to turn around at the center?
                    Does the landscape change with your vantage?

                     Does the landscape change with your vantage?
            Did you expect that particular twist?
        Did you know you can still be surprised?
        Can you draw an accurate map?

    Do you know what you'll keep from the journey?
    What kind of souvenirs can you carry?
Did you intend to travel without pockets?
Do you know your way through?



 


 

Today is the 27th day of the Omer, which makes three weeks and six days of the Omer. This is the 27th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, liberation to revelation.

Today's poem was originally drafted as a list of 20 questions, and the visual prosody nods to my experiences walking meditation labyrinths. The purpose of a meditation labyrinth isn't to find the way out; it's not a maze. There's only one way in and one way out. In a meditation labyrinth, it's all about the journey.

Of course, the same can be said of the Omer. And of most things, really.

Shabbat shalom to those who celebrate.


Day 26 of the Omer


DAY 26: FOR THE BONES


For the bones we carry along the way,
   the stories our grandparents told us, impressed
      like a seal on the wax of our hearts: give thanks.
For the taste of haroset which lingers for weeks.
   The rhythm of footsteps, the pull to move forward
      though the sea licks our ankles. The waters will part.

When we dance, when we notice the stars overhead
   and draw new constellations: the leader, the timbrel
      then our ancestors' struggles were worth it.
The path from constriction to covenant calls

-- keep on walking.

 


 

Today is the 26th day of the Omer, making three weeks and five days of the Omer. This is the 26th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, liberation to revelation.

Today's poem was inspired by a prompt from last year's NaPoWriMo, the one for the 26th day of the month (since this is the 26th day of the Omer) -- to write a curtal sonnet.

 


Day 25 of the Omer


DAY 25: EVEN IF


Even if this is the path you're meant to walk
no one promised pedicures and crumpets.
Don't you think the children of Israel struggled
under the weight of not-knowing what lay ahead?
Resting when the cloud of glory paused,
and marching when it lifted, no questions asked?
No door worth opening, no journey worth taking
can be wholly mapped in advance. No one knows
(except for God) what's on the other side.

 


 

This is the 25th day of the Omer, making three weeks and four days of the Omer. This is the 25th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, liberation to revelation.

In the kabbalistic paradigm this is the day of netzach she'b'netzach, the day of endurance within the week of endurance. This poem is an acrostic; if you read vertically down the first letter of each line, you'll see its theme.


Day 24 of the Omer


DAY 24: STONE WORK


            The only rule I know:
two stones on one,             one stone on two.
                Fit them snug
so they won't topple             after the first cycle
                of freeze and thaw.
If I could fly                 over New England
                low enough to look
through leafless trees             I'd see the earth
                seamed like a baseball,
old walls the stitches             holding her together.
                Some have slumped
over centuries,              granite and gneiss
                sliding gracefully
to the side, but             even in ruin
                the walls endure.
What will I build             in my lifetime
                to last as long?


 


 

Today is the 24th day of the Omer, making three weeks and three days of the Omer. This is the 24th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

Today's poem was inspired by one of last year's NaPoWriMo prompts -- the invitation to write a poem about stone walls or arches.

The shape of today's poem is inspired by the "two stones on one" rule, and by the calligraphy of the Song at the Sea.


Day 23 of the Omer


DAY 23: EVENING PRAYER


Afternoon's flat hot white
gives way to the electric green
of minarets against evening's blur.

Old city divides: here
crosses, there metal crescents.
Judaism's in the paving stones.

I press against the wall
to let the Land Rover pass,
the bike, the men with sidecurls.

I wish these dusty Coke bottles
were inscribed in two languages.
Harmony's a long way off.

Taste and see:
our story crackles
like pastry drenched with honey.

Torah is a fresh fig
ready to be parted and savored.
There's enough to share.

Long after every border blows away
like chalk dust on the wind
her waters will endure.

 


 

Today is the 23rd day of the Omer, making three weeks and two days of the Omer. This is the 23rd day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

Today's poem was sparked by one of Luisa A. Igloria's prompts from last year - the one from April 22, which suggested stanzas, moving through space, synonyms for light, the words "metal," "electric," and "blur," the present tense, references to two sweets, and a reference to a commercial from my childhood. (Can you find the reference to the commercial?)

In the kabbalistic paradigm, today is the day of gevurah she'b'netzach, the day of boundaries or borders or strength within the week of endurance. As I worked with Luisa's prompt, I found myself thinking about Jerusalem, and borders, and what endures.


Day 22 of the Omer


22: ENDURANCE


They steamed south until pack ice closed in.
Faith in the journey kept spirits high.
Always knew they'd reach the promised land.
They'd trek across the expanse of white.

Faith in the journey kept spirits high.
The continent was a blank page before them.
They'd trek across the expanse of white
scribing holy writ with sledges and skis.

The continent was a blank page before them.
The ship groaned, then buckled.
Scribing holy writ with sledges and skis
they decamped to the ice, watched her go down.

The ship groaned, then buckled.
Any sane man knew they were lost.
They decamped to the ice, watched her go down.
Hauled their lifeboats over mountains of ice.

Any sane man knew they were lost.
But Shackleton wouldn't let them lose hope.
They hauled lifeboats over mountains of ice
and rowed 800 miles in the world's worst seas.

Shackleton wouldn't let them lose hope.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield!
They rowed 800 miles in the world's worst seas
and he brought every man home alive.

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield!
They'd steamed south until pack ice closed in.
He brought every man home alive.
Always knew they'd reach the promised land.

 


 

Today is the 22nd day of the Omer, making three weeks and one day of the Omer. This is the 22nd day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation.

In the kabbalistic paradigm, today begins the week of netzach, endurance. As I've written before, I can't hear the word "endurance" without thinking of Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-17. That's what inspired today's poem.


Day 21 of the Omer


21: GOOD HEART


Five roads diverged. Eliezer chose the path
of vision. Yehoshua chased friendship.
Yossi wanted to be a good neighbor.
Shimon sought to think ahead. But Elazar
craved a good heart, and their teacher said
I prefer the words of Elazar
because his choice includes all of yours.

A good heart. In gematria, good plus heart
-- seventeen plus thirty-two -- equals 49,
the days of the Omer. Three weeks in:
press a metaphysical stethoscope to your ribs
and listen to the lub-dub of your lev.
Tap with your fingers: is its tough exterior
softening like pliable red wax in the sun?

Can you carve grooves of gratitude, trace
the map of this meditation labyrinth
and leave an imprint? Make runnels in the clay
and see what flows through you. Instilling
a new habit takes a month of practice.
Four weeks remain before it's time to harvest.
What grows inside your four chambers?

 


 

Today is the 21st day of the Omer, making three weeks of the Omer. Today is the 21st day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation.

Gematria is Jewish number-math. In Hebrew, letters double as numbers, which means that every word also has a numerical meaning.

Lev is the Hebrew word for "heart."

In one Mussar model, today is the day to meditate on the quality of לב טוב, a good heart. That phrase reminded me of a Hasidic teaching about the importance of having a good heart, which I blogged some years ago on Lag b'Omer: The bonfire of the expansive heart.


Day 20 of the Omer


DAY 20: WINDOWS ON THE WORLD


Imagine a house
where every window
shows a different world.

This one reveals
the root system
of an ancient tree.

This one, a mother
rocking her infant
back down to sleep.

A young man balances
a pallet of green coconuts
on his head.

A child offers
boxes of Chiclets
to stopped cars.

Here, a field
where corn sprouts
emerge, chartreuse.

A violinist busks
in a tiled subway station
and strangers applaud.

A man squeezes
pomegranates by hand,
sells their frothy juice.

Gnarled olive trees
overlook a pitted wall
built by giants...

The house is God's
and we are its windows.
Wash away dirt.

Become transparent.
Look! Such beauty
shines through you.

 


 

Today is the 20th day of the Omer, making two weeks and six days of the Omer. This is the 20th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, from liberation to revelation.

Today's poem was inspired by an image from the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, of a house in which the windows looked out on another world, and also by teachings I first heard in 2003 (I think from Rabbi Moshe Aharon / Rabbi Miles Krassen) about how we are windows and teshuvah  (repentance or re/turn) is a process of clearing away grime.


Day 19 of the Omer


DAY 19: SEASIDE


In a town by the sea, where the air is sweet with
dune-growing roses and licked lips taste like
salt, where the wind whips your prayer shawl into
the air like wings with a mind of their own, where
at dawn machines groom the abandoned beach,
readying the canvas of the day for whatever holy
inscriptions will be written by childrens' feet,
where the luminous sky cycles through periwinkle
and gold and the blue of hand-tied tzitzit, if you
can balance on one foot without wobbling and teach
Torah to everyone who asks, you might glimpse
the humble splendor of this nineteenth day tucked
inside the empty paper cup which once held pale
frozen lemonade, rattling across the expanse of sand.

 


 

Today is the 19th day of the Omer, making two weeks and five days of the Omer. This is the 19th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

Today's poem was inspired by one of Luisa A. Igloria's prompts from last spring, the one in memory of Gabriel Marcia Marquez.


Day 18 of the Omer


DAY 18: SECRET PRAYERS


Eighteen days now
we've broken in our walking shoes.

The world is scribed
with secret prayers.

Tucked in today's pockets:
slips of paper which read to life!

This eighteenth day
is a shiny pewter spigot, waiting.

The waters above yearn
to join the living waters below

new life cascading
into our hands.



 


 

Today is the eighteenth day of the Omer, making two weeks and four days of the Omer. This is the 18th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, from liberation to revelation.

Hebrew letters double as numbers. The Hebrew word for "life" -- חי –– is numerically equivalent to 18. That's what sparked this poem.


Day 17 of the Omer

 

DAY 17: TASTE AND SEE


Remember the first slice of bread
after seven days of matzah --
how the sawtoothed knife cut through
the airy crumb against the drag
of crust, steam rising
from the newly-baked loaf:
manna after a week of hardtack.
What will Torah taste like
after seven weeks of counting?

 


 

Today is the seventeenth day of the Omer, making two weeks and three days of the Omer. This is the 17th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

In the kabbalistic framework, today is the day of tiferet she'b'tiferet, balance and harmony within balance and harmony (it's the day of tiferet within the week of tiferet.) Today's poem didn't arise out of that fact, but I think there's something special about today being the day of balance and harmony squared, so I figured I'd mention it.

(Of course, I mean "today" in the Jewish sense -- the day which began on Monday evening at sundown and ends Tuesday evening at sundown -- so those of you who receive these blog posts by email as East Coast evening approaches will be reading this poem as the day of tiferet squared approaches its end.)


Day 16 of the Omer


DAY 16 - SHOE SEEKER


How much of your life will you spend seeking shoes?
Hunting the keys you're certain you left in a pocket,
sunglasses resting unnoticed on top of your head?
Meanwhile the Holy One hides in plain sight.

Practice moderation even in your boot rack. Let habit
guide you to glide through routine, scuff on your sandals
while ice rattles in your glass. With the minutes you glean
say thanks for the big bang still unfolding.

Pedestrians carry bright umbrellas like nodding tulips.
Thread a path between puddles. Balance kindness
and determination: everything else is commentary.
If you can't find your shoes, then go barefoot.

Push your cart through the cluttered aisles.
Don't forget the intangibles: how will you nourish
the part of you that thrives not on bread but on song?
The sages say: what you're seeking is already here.

 


 

Today is the sixteenth day of the Omer, which makes two weeks and two days of the Omer. This is the 16th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

In the Mussar tradition, today is a day for focusing on the quality of "Apply business acumen to living." While I don't resonate with everything in this essay by R' Noah Weinberg, one line from the essay sparked this poem: "How much of your life will you spend being a shoe seeker?"


Day 15 of the Omer


DAY 15: FIFTEEN


A hidden name of God.
    Steps ascending to the Temple,
        each with its own psalm.

Words in the blessing
    which places God's Name
        on the people, opening channels.

Morning thank-yous, each
    hinting at the Exodus:
        once, a plague of darkness --

now we see clearly. Once
    slaves forbidden to stand tall --
        now our spines are straight.

Gates we opened two weeks ago
    passing through each adorned arch
        moving from degradation to joy.

 


 

Today is the fifteenth day of the Omer, making two weeks and one day of the Omer. This is the 15th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, liberation to revelation.

In Hebrew, letters also double as numbers. The simplest way to write the number fifteen spells Yah, a holy name of God. (For this reason we often write 9 and 6 instead of 10 and 5, so as not to be using that holy name in vain.) Fifteen is a number with deep significance in Jewish tradition.