On preparing a nondenominational funeral
A visit to Sagrada Familia

One from the archives: morning blessings poem cycle

Around 2002-2004 I worked on a series of variations on some of the traditional morning blessings. These were among my first experiments with creative work meant to be experienced both as prayers and as poems. This poem cycle includes the prayers known as Elohai Neshama, Asher Yatzar, Nishmat Kol Chai, and Baruch She'amar. The "Asher Yatzar" poem was first published in Zeek magazine, spring/summer 2005. (ETA: if you like these, you might also like Daily miracles, a poem/prayer variation on the birchot ha-shachar / list of morning blessings.)



My God, my
own, my breath
that you have given me
is pure
she is clean, clear
like mikvah waters

the spark
which makes me more
than automated clay,
than cells
sprouting cells
is holy

it's feminine
no matter whose,
women and men
and those blessed

what's gendered
female is what
creates: this
drop of divine
breath that breathes
new life through us

let what I create
in the world,
my God,
be as pure
as Your breath
in me



Blessed is the breath of life
who formed and animates this body,

its myriad organs and tissues,
protrusions, bones, and sinews;

winter skin so dry my calves rub bloody,
flesh flushed with rhythm and heat;

curve of hip distinguishing me
from my mother whose pants need belting;

nailbeds a reincarnation
of my grandmother's long fingers;

tiny dunes of bicep I have labored
to bring into being and maintain;

narrow feet which fit snug
only in the most expensive of shoes;

wrists and ankles I can encircle
with thumb and forefinger;

nose and mouth that together savor
cheese, real vanilla, green tea;

all the weird, wet, noisy orifices
I need daily but can’t understand.

If my bowels were to fail, or my kidneys,
pancreas, vision...? Doctors would stitch and sew,

but it wouldn't be easy
and You'd still have to prop me up

as You do today and every day.
Blessed are you, creator of embodied miracles.



Breath of our bodies
and harmattan of our ambitions

hurricane of our angers
and chinook of our forgiveness

tempest of our childbirths
and cold front of our silences

articulated gasp of pain
and muffled sigh of pleasure

inbreath of my housecat
and outbreath of every tree

gust that reshapes coastlines
and tempest of our teeming hearts

wind of the physical world
and the realms of emanation beyond

Breath of All Life, the breath
of all life blesses Your name.

If every mouth joined right now
in breathing Your praises

if every present thing on earth
stopped so we could laud You

if we all shared the roaring voice
of lion and elephant and walrus,

the heightened senses
of the mystic and the hunting owl

if we could fly like the Concorde
looping your smoky name across the sky

if we could discard differences: human,
animal, fire, stone, seed, snow

even that cry of togetherness
would not be enough to thank You.



Every sunrise and sunset, birth
and death, storm and flood, blossom
and snowfall. Every lip balm,
paperback novel, beggar and bowl
and hair salon. Every glass of water,
muddy gorge, mother
and market and corrugated roof.

Rhododendrons, dirty oil barrels
filled with groundnut paste,
filligreed teapots, emerald beetles,
scrolls, wooden tulips, bottles of beer.
Sequoias, crepemyrtle, dwarf birch.
Every rubber band. Every paperclip.
Every open sore and aching tooth.

How does Your mouth not tire
of speaking the world into being?
Almighty, Your creations cannot imagine
infinity without growing weary.
It's hard to remember
Your mouth is purely metaphor
though Your speech is real.

You speak every atom in the universe,
a mighty chord resonating.
Every fold of skin, every grain of sand,
every iceberg and hibiscus come from you.
If You ever chose silence, even for an instant,
we would blink out of existence
as though this experiment had never been.