Etrogcello, part 2
A Short Haggadah for Tu BiShvat

A post-smicha Torah poem: Coming Back Down



After Sinai's synaesthesia
(power surge, transmission)

our ancestors blinked and backed away
already forgetting how to read
the Name in each others' faces

the wilderness dwarfed them
they wandered off in ones and twos

the way we drift through airports
stunned to be among strangers
who don't feel God's absence

new connections crackled their synapses
rewriting child, servant, partner

they returned to their tents, staring
at the cooking pots and water skins
trying to remember who they'd been

before God birthed them a second time
into a world vast and new

take it easy, I would say
if I could: give the yoke of heaven
time to settle around your shoulders

if only my words could penetrate
the parchment between us

On one level, this is a poem about the aftermath of the theophany at Sinai: the divine revelation in which God revealed God's-self to the children of Israel and formally entered into eternal covenant with them / us. (For more, read Exodus 19, starting around verse 16. Or, read this week's whole parsha in English -- parashat Yitro.) On another level, this is a poem about last week -- the week after my smicha -- and the experience of struggling to assimilate that incredibly powerful experience into my existing life. There's always something slightly lonely about coming home from an ALEPH gathering, but that feeling has been heightened for me this time around. I can't help wondering whether the Israelites in this week's Torah portion felt anything like this after their big moment was done.

The idea of reading the Name in each others' faces comes from a Hasidic text I studied a few years ago. The text is by the Ropcyzer rebbe, and I translated and expounded on it a bit here on my blog: In Your Face!

This is the first poem I've written since I finished my year-long cycle of weekly mother poems at the end of November. I've spent so much time recently with the well-polished Torah poems in 70 Faces, and with the mother poems which I'm beginning to revise, that it feels strange to be pushing up against an entirely blank screen again. But that's part of why I'm sharing this poem here, even though I'm not certain that this is its finished form. Sharing poems here is a good part of my writing practice, and it's part of my spiritual practice as well. I welcome whatever response y'all have to offer.