Three more holidays at the very end of Sukkot
Pictures and words (Hoshanna Rabbah)

A poem for Hoshanna Rabbah

My footsteps across
this patch of earth's scalp
release the scent of thyme.

Even in the rain
the squirrels have been busy
denuding the corncobs.

The wind has dangled
my autumn garlands. I untangle
them one last time.

Every day the sukkah becomes
more a sketch of itself.
The canvas walls dip

and drape, the cornstalks
wither, revealing more
of the variegated sky.

Today we ask God to save
this ark and all that it holds.
Today the penultimate taste

of honey on our bread.
Today we beat willow branches
until the leaves fall.

The end of this long walk
through fasts and feasts:
we're footsore, hearts weary

from pumping emotion. We yearn
to burrow into the soil
and close our eyes. We won't know

what's been planted in us
until the sting of horseradish
pulls us forth into freedom.



This is the poem I worked on yesterday -- Hoshanna Rabbah -- while sitting in the sukkah during a cool clouded stretch of afternoon. (What's Hoshanna Rabbah? See yesterday's post, Three more holidays at the end of Sukkot.)

The stanza about asking God to save "this ark and all that it holds" is a reference to the hoshanot, the prayers asking God to save the earth, recited on Hoshanna Rabbah. Beating willow branches until the leaves fall like rain is another of the day's practices.

One tradition holds that we eat challah drizzled with honey not only on Rosh Hashanah at the new year, but all the way through the holiday season to Shemini Atzeret, which is today.

I'm wondering whether I should cut the first three stanzas. What do you think?


ETA: based on responses here, I revised the poem into a new form, which you can see in the next post: Pictures and words (Hoshanna Rabbah.)