A few words about Esther for a Christian audience
70 faces coming to Yale on November 7!

A new Torah poem arising in conversation with Bereshit


I let my prayerbook get dusty.
Crumpled tissues proliferate
like misshapen mushrooms.

Even in rainbow-striped thigh socks
all I can imagine wanting
is an overstuffed red chair.

I count the hours until bedtime.
Even milk and honey
only soothe for a little while.

When God was beginning to create
the heavens and the earth
this malaise slipped in

a hint of the original void
floating irridescent on the surface
of the first human heart.



I'm not sure why depression has played a role in two of the three Torah poems I've written for parashat Bereshit. (This one, and Postpartum, 2008 -- the other one I've shared here is Likeness, 2009.) Maybe it has to do with the natural let-down after the wild cascade of holidays we've just completed.

Though the phrase "milk and honey" may make you think of the Promised Land which is described in those terms, the Torah is also likened to milk and honey -- in Song of Songs we read "Honey and milk are under your tongue," and this is one of the reasons for the tradition of eating dairy on Shavuot when we celebrate the revelation of Torah.

I'm not sure I'm wild about the line "a hint of the original void." I wanted to suggest tohu va-vohu, which I've seen rendered "formless and empty" or "wild and waste" or "astonishingly empty." (Perhaps the most interesting rendering is Sforno's; he reads tohu to mean potential and vohu the ability to become real.) I like the idea that our moments of depression offer us a glimpse of the formlessness which preceded all things.

As always, feedback is welcome! And if you like this poem / this kind of poem and you don't yet have a copy of 70 faces (Phoenicia, 2011), I hope you'll consider picking one up.