I turn again toward you. My eyes are clear and open. I keep you always before me. Your presence makes me glad.
My eyes are clear, and open to the future I can't yet see. Your presence makes me glad I leap into the unknown.
To the future I can't yet see: thank you for waiting for me. I leap into the unknown. I trust that I won't fall.
Thank you for waiting for me. With you, I'm never alone. I trust that I won't fall. I keep hope in you.
With you, I'm never alone. Sing to me and I am strong. I keep hope in you. I open my heart wide.
Sing to me and I am strong. I keep you always before me. I open my heart wide. I turn again toward you.
Yes, it's another pantoum. (Maybe I need a pantoum category on my blog, to go along with the sestina category.)
Writing these Elul poems has been a gift for me, and has helped me stay connected with my own spiritual life even at this season when my professional life ramps up. I hope that reading them has been sweet for you.
L'shanah tovah -- wishing you a sweet new year.
I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; you might also enjoy my collection of Elul poems which arose out of #blogElul a few years ago, now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.
The king wants to reveal but Vashti's body is her own. What if every woman were so uppity? his courtiers tsk and cluck.
But Vashti's body is her own: the veil is her comfort. His courtiers tsk and cluck. Ladies whisper behind soft hands.
The veil is her comfort as the palace doors open. Ladies whisper behind soft hands a new chapter is unfolding.
As the palace doors open girls pour in like the sea. A new chapter is unfolding. Who will be chosen to serve?
Girls pour in like the sea. Esther, the bright orphan who will be chosen to serve keeps her own counsel.
Esther, the bright orphan -- she piques the king's interest keeps her own counsel she knows how to curtsey.
She piques the king's interest with fine foreign features. She knows how to curtsey -- no one asks women to bow.
Her fine foreign features don't mark her as a stranger. No one asks women to bow but men have their pride.
Don't mark her as a stranger! Mordechai stands tall (men have their pride) Haman hammers. At his gallows
Mordechai stands tall. Is this why Esther was chosen? Haman hammers at his gallows. She plucks her courage in both hands.
Is this why Esther was chosen? The invisible hand of God at work? She plucks her courage in both hands -- Tell the truth of who you are.
The invisible hand of God at work? The King wants to reveal. Tell the truth of who you are. What if every woman were so uppity?
Purim is a topsy-turvy holiday, a holiday of inversions. I wanted to write another Purim poem, and the pantoum -- with its inversions and recontextualizations -- seemed like the perfect form. I welcome questions and/or comments. Enjoy!
refuse to let go grip my finger tight bang your feet on the floor blow raspberries at the sky
grip my finger tight pop off the breast and beam blow raspberries at the sky toe off a small red sock
pop off the breast and beam lie on your back and babble toe off a small red sock crinkle a book made of cloth
lie on your back and babble open mouth, insert world crinkle a book made of cloth rub your reddening eyes
open mouth, insert world insist you are not sleepy rub your reddening eyes cling to your giraffe
insist you are not sleepy grip my finger tight cling to your giraffe refuse to let go
This week's big tent poetry prompt was twofold: to write a poem about anger, and to make it a pantoum. I didn't take on the suggested subject matter, but decided to adopt this form in writing this week's mother poem.
I've written pantoums before -- most notably the Torah poem Tzav Pantoum, which was later published in Frostwriting. The same thing that made the form a good fit for that section of the book of Leviticus makes the form a good fit for describing this moment in parenthood: there's an awful lot of repetition!
I wanted to evoke, with this poem, the full sweep of a day with Drew: from his excitement when he first sees me in the morning (grabbing for my finger, kicking his feet) to the eye-rubbing which tells me it's time for bed at day's end, with all of the baby-babbling and toy-rattling which comes in between.
A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to go out. --Lev. 6:6
First you dress in linen then scoop out the ashes. Stop and wash with water, then you change your garments
and scoop out the ashes. Lather, rinse, repeat; then you change your garments. No one said it was easy.
Lather, rinse, repeat; out here in the wilderness no one said it was easy to keep the fire burning.
Out here in the wilderness there's little wood to scavenge to keep the fire burning all night until morning.
There's little wood to scavenge and you want perpetual motion all night until morning— that's the ritual of the offering.
You want perpetual motion but fires don't burn forever and the ritual of the offering is this lesson from the waters.
Fires don't burn forever (except for that holy pillar) so take a lesson from the waters and the reeds you sludged across.
Remember that holy pillar like a beacon in the darkness and the reeds you sludged across each shaky step toward freedom.
Like a beacon in the darkness God's instructions on this are clear: each shaky step toward freedom keeps the fire burning.
God's instructions on this are clear. Stop and wash with water. Keep the fire burning. First you dress in linen.
This poem is a pantoum, one of my favorite verse forms. Because it makes use of repetition, it seemed like a good match for this piece of Vayikra (Leviticus); the same repetition that's a little frustrating in prose feels fruitful and intriguing in poetry.
This week we're in parashat Tzav. When I reread the portion, 6:6 leapt out at me and became the epigram for the poem; the rest of the poem followed from there. Again, if you can see the embedded audio player at the top of the post you can listen to the poem; alternately you're welcome to download tzav.mp3.
I hope y'all are enjoying these Torah poems. They work for me on a different level than do prose divrei Torah; the process of writing them is showing me sides of these Torah portions I hadn't seen before.
Edited to add: this poem is now available in 70 faces, my collection of Torah poems, published by Phoenicia Publishing, 2011.