Approaching Av... and Ramadan
After the fall - a poem for Tisha b'Av

Tele/Presence (a poem for the spiritual practice of reading the paper)



I want to keep you with me
when I raise the remote
turn the dial, flick the knob

when I fall to the temptation
of reading the comments
at Ha'aretz or the Post

I want your presence
twined around my forearm
when I snap open the Times

when I fret over trending topics
when I dream in status updates
scrolling endlessly

remind me, God, to seek you
not only in the timeless flow
of liturgy on the page

but in the stock ticker
and the commercials for windshields
and the interplay of punditry

beyond the debt ceiling
within every celebrity
there is nothing but you



My friend Reverend Peter Elvin asked recently whether I had a poem which touches on the subject of how to remain mindful of God while reading the daily news. I didn't, but I was intrigued by the suggestion, so I set myself the challenge of writing one.

It's not always easy to be religious and to be engaged with secular public life: between news media and social media, whatever fragile sense of divine presence I manage to cultivate during prayer can dissipate in an instant. I meditate for 45 minutes... and then I check my email and poof! there goes my focus. At least, that's how it feels on the tough days.

But just as I love the Hasidic idea of avodah b'gashmiut -- serving God in and through corporeality (not despite it) -- I have to believe it's possible to serve the Holy Blessed One not by withdrawing from the world (the newspaper, the radio, the tabloids, the billboards, Twitter and Facebook and Google+) but by bringing my awareness of holiness to the world. One of the pieces of art hanging in my synagogue office is a print by Jackie Olenick which reads ein od milvado: "there is nothing else but God." If that's true, then God is in the headlines; God is in the casualty reports; God is in my twitter stream.


ETA: this poem will appear in my third book-length collection of poems, Open My Lips, due from Ben Yehuda Press in 2014.