A short service for Selichot
Thanks for the reprints!

A poem for the month of Elul


How to make it new:
each year the same missing
of the same marks,
the same petitions
and apologies.

We were impatient, unkind.
We let ego rule the day
and forgot to be thankful.
We allowed our fears
to distance us.

But every year
the ascent through Elul
does its magic,
shakes old bitterness
from our hands and hearts.

We sit awake, itemizing
ways we want to change.
We try not to mind
that this year’s list
looks just like last.

The conversation gets
easier as we limber up.
Soon we can stretch farther
than we ever imagined.
We breathe deeper.

By the time we reach the top
we’ve forgotten
how nervous we were
that repeating the climb
wasn’t worth the work.

Creation gleams before us.
The view from here matters
not because it’s different
from last year
but because we are

and the way to reach God
is one breath at a time,
one step, one word,
every second a chance
to reorient, repeat, return.



This is the poem I wrote and shared with friends and family during Elul of 5765 (also known as 2005). I suspect the beginning of the poem was influenced by Ezra Pound's poetic dictim of "make it new." The "it" in question was poetry, though I think it's an interesting instruction for life, too. What might it mean to make life new when even the most cursory process of discernment reveals the ways in which we repeat our old patterns year after year? This poem offers one possible answer.