El Shaddai (Nursing Poem)
Chanukah poem published

Chanukah poem for Drew

On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, after services were over, two of my friends threw a Blessingway for me. That afternoon I received letters, blessings, beads, stories, and poems from friends. (All of the blessings for me, and for Ethan, are preserved in the Blessingway section of Drew's website.)

One such poem came from Kate Abbott of Spring Farm Almanac. She wrote a beautiful sestina about our first Chanukah with Drew, which I repost here with permission. (If you like it, be sure to visit her post and leave a comment to let her know.) Thank you so much, Kate.

A wish for your son's first nights

When you sit, all three wrapped in blankets,
in the early dark, blue on the shoulders
of the hills, letting pillows hold your heads,
and listen to the bubble of his breathing,
let the quiet instill warmth, in the new way
tinder and cardboard on the hearth kindle.

Your husband brings in wood. You light the candles,
sing she’hecheyanu and tuck in blankets.
While the candles burn, you may sit this way,
one head against your thigh, one on your shoulder,
and hum with the resonance of their breathing,
your hand on his head, your head against his head.

You know tonight and need not count ahead.
One candle for each night and one to kindle
make nine, one for each night he has had breath,
one for each night tired men in muddy blankets
paced a stone floor, rubbing knotted shoulders,
waiting for a light to fade away.

Because one oil lamp would not burn away
you slide a hand behind an infant head
supporting with a hand behind his shoulders
so he can see the sinking of the candles
as they settle into waxy blankets.
You kneel to feed the hearth fire with your breath.

You whisper over him the words you breathed
over the candles and tell him the way
to sing them, as you burrow into blankets,
all three of you. Your husband strokes your head.
You close your eyes and small reflections kindle
behind your eyelids as he rubs your shoulders.

Let soft wool lie lightly on your shoulders.
Let you feel, all three, the same soft breathing.
In astonished dark small lights are kindled,
until tonight you circle this slight weight
who rests in a palm and cannot raise his head.
Tell him long after he outgrows these blankets

how you stroked his head beneath the blankets
while night slipped away. How you felt his breathing
against your shoulder. How he kindled the night.

-- Kate Abbott