Step one: we attuned ourselves to light.
I don't mean the sun, but what came first.
(Heavenly bodies were day four.) The fire
of the burning bush, the glowing cloud
that hovered over the mishkan, the presence
of creation's supernal flame made us lift

our eyes. When the pillar would lift
we set off; when it settled, we'd light
our cookfires. Back then we had presence
of mind to check the celestial forecast first.
Didn't let our desires to move cloud
our judgment. We were on fire

for the One Whose presence gleams. Afire,
we reached step two: learning how to lift
our hearts even when the cloud
didn't move. We can travel light
even if we're not going anywhere. First
we learn how to live with holy presence.

Step three: open to what wholly presents
itself. Strike the iron while the fire
is hot, but paint our doorposts first.
When we left Egypt we knew how to lift
our hearts to the One, how to light
the tinder of prayerful spirit into clouds

of incense. But God was not in the cloud:
only hinted-at in the wordless presence
that filled the tabernacle with light.
"More than God wants the straw fire
God wants the well-cooked heart," so lift
yourself to the altar. Sometimes the first

thing to do is burn. Sometimes first
we bank our internal fires, offer up the cloud
of self that rises. When the lift
comes, when our hearts become our presents --
that's the time to add fuel to the fire.
The One Who rolls back darkness before light

first tunes our internal radio to the presence.
Then we notice when we get cloud, and when fire.
Let our spirits lift, and become light.

I don't mean the sun, but what came first. At the beginning of Bereshit (Genesis) God creates light, but sun and moon and stars don't materialize for another few days. From this our tradition intuits that the light of creation was something other than literal light, and there are many beautiful teachings about the supernal light of creation hidden away for the righteous.

The fire of the burning bush. See Exodus 3. One of my favorite teachings about Shabbat candles holds that when we kindle lights on Shabbat, we are to see in them the supernal light of creation and the light of the bush that burned but was not consumed. 

The glowing cloud that hovered over the mishkan... when the pillar would lift. See this week's Torah portion, B'ha'alot'kha, in which a cloud hovered over the mishkan (the tabernacle / dwelling-place-for-God's-presence). When the cloud lifted, we went on our journeys, and when it rested, we stayed put.  (For a beautiful d'var Torah on that theme, see Rabbi David's The Reason for Patience.)

Strike the iron while the fire / is hot, but paint our doorposts first. The Exodus story is a paradigmatic narrative of leaping when the opportunity presents itself... but before so doing, the children of Israel painted blood on the doorposts of their houses, an act we now echo in placing a mezuzah on the doorposts of ours. Doors are liminal spaces -- life is full of liminal spaces -- and it's up to us to make them holy.

But God was not in the cloud. See I Kings 19:11-12. God was not in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still small voice.

More than God wants the straw fire / God wants the well-cooked heart. A teaching from the Kotzker Rebbe. 

The One Who rolls back darkness before light. See maa'ariv aravim, our prayer for evening -- here it is in several variations.

Tunes our internal radio to the presence. This metaphor comes from Reb Zalman z"l, who used to speak about how God broadcasts on all channels and we receive revelation where we are attuned.

Elul Poem 5776 / New Year's Card 5777

Drew-And-MeIt's September, Elul: time to begin
discerning who we want to be. Again
late summer cricketsong returns
to the airwaves, reminding me anew
the season is turning. I steep in hope
that grows stronger like tea. The old year

has come due, the new year
waits in the wings for her scenes to begin.
All I can do is to cultivate hope,
remind myself no one's perfect, again:
doesn't matter if I "make it new,"
only whether I'm trying to return

to the best of who I've been, re-turn
in the right direction this year.
A marriage, ended: okay, this is new.
I admit, it's strange learning how to begin
a new chapter, being a beginner again
after all these years. Dare I hope

for lightness of heart, hope
this stripped-down life helps me return
to the Holy One of Blessing again?
So much has changed since last year
I scarcely know where to begin
when friends blithely ask "what's new?"

But every day the world is made anew.
Psalm 27 invites me to hope
in the One, to trust that if I begin
to try God will help me return.
The Hebrew word we translate as year
is almost the word "change." Again

we bring ourselves (here we are again)
to the cusp of defining ourselves anew.
Harvest the wisdom of the old year
to carry us, coat pockets full of hope,
through the season that's coming. Re/turn
again. Are you ready? Then begin

again, let your heart expand with hope.
Everything can be new. Return
to your truest self as the year begins.


שנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו 

May you be written & sealed for a good year to come!





For those who are so inclined: here are my annual Elul / High Holiday card poems from 2003 until now.

#blogElul 29: Return


I wouldn't be here without you.
Because you read, I want to write;
because you listen, I sing again.
How can it already be a year
since the holidays last called me home?
Deep breath, get ready, time to turn.

To everything, turn, turn, turn --
the only thing that's constant is you.
I'm not always sure where to find home.
Sometimes it's in what I write,
the daily chronicle of the old year
manifesting in my poems again.

I know it's time to look again
at where I missed the mark, to turn
my attention toward the old year
for one last time. I know that you
forgive me for the words I didn't write,
times when I couldn't be a home

for you or even for myself. Home
means the safety to start over again,
to shine so that everything I write
illuminates. I want to return
to the safety I find when I'm with you.
I want to live in that place this year.

What is the thing for which I yearn
the most? Only this: to be at home
in my skin, to be at home with you
in the temple of Shabbat again
and again. To sanctify every turn
my life takes, be brave enough to write

my way to who I really am. Rewrite
my heart, rewire my synapses. This year
I want to see your face at every turn.
Because I'm not alone, I'm always home.
With every heartbeat say thanks again
for enlivening me, for being you.

May the words I write bring me home.
May the new year help me begin again.
May I always turn with love toward you.

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; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.

Day 43 of the Omer


Thank God for the gift of another day.
Check the mile marker: what's the number?
We're almost there. One more week
of sifting days like grains to measure
how they fall, and then -- Torah
pouring in like raindrops, too many to count.

The challenge is making each moment count --
sussing out subtle differences in each day.
Through forty-eight qualities we acquire Torah
(according to the sages, who liked to number
everything) -- that's wisdom beyond measure.
Time to manifest Shechina this final week.

What we were withholding made us weak
until we found it was ourselves that count:
not salary or 401K, nothing you can measure
but who we are in the world every day.
Focusing on accomplishments just made us numb(er),
and you need an open heart to receive Torah.

It wasn't just once upon a time that Torah
streamed into creation. It's coming this week.
God broadcasts constantly at every number
on the radio dial, in too many languages to count.
We accept the covenant anew each day
in how we act, how we speak, how we take the measure

of who we want to be. Can you measure
up to the version of yourself who merits Torah?
What would it look like to live each day
with nobility? Everything you do this week
can wake the part of you that's out for the count.
If I ask "how is your soul," could you number

on a scale of one to ten? Number
the qualities you share with God. You measure
up. You matter. Stand up for the count --
you were there at Sinai when we received Torah.
And you'll be there again in one short week.
Torah comes to us on the fiftieth day.

Treasure the numbers that make up Torah.
Take the measure of your heart this final week.
Count reasons for gratitude, every day.



Today is the forty-third day of the Omer, making six weeks and one day of the Omer. Today is the 43rd day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

In the kabbalistic framework, today we begin the week of malchut, sovereignty / nobility / Shechina. Shechina is the Jewish mystics' term for the immanent, indwelling, feminine presence of the Divine.

The lines "What we were withholding made us weak / until we found it was ourselves that count" are a nod to Robert Frost's The Gift Outright.

We're entering the final week of our journey. What is that like for you?

Day 10 of the Omer



The tenth day:
fortune cookie says, find balance
within constraint. Even bound
to the count, you're free
to stargaze while you wait.
Are we there

yet? Do we even know where there
is? Once a cloud by day,
a fire by night showed us when to wait
and when to leap, the balance
between movement (free)
and stillness (bound).

As we trek toward Sinai, we're bound
to have days when there's
nothing can stop us, we're free
to dance -- and days
when mud sucks our shoes, we lose balance
-- even fall backwards. Wait

and discern the path ahead, the weight
of ancient trauma falling away. Bound
like lambs across the hilltops! Balance
with the patient angels. There
will come, I promise you, a day
when we encamp around the mountain, free

to receive transmission. Free
yourself from expectation. Wait
until you see the voice that day!
You don't have to believe it now, bound
by old scripts. Once you're there
harmony will hang in the balance

of old and new, balance
of rearview mirror and windshield free
from roadsalt's cloud. There's
much to be said for learning how to wait,
how to live within the bounds
of celebrating what God has made today.

Balance urge to run, willingness to wait.
The trip is free. Blessings abound.
Trust you'll be there on the 50th day.



Today is the tenth day of the Omer, making one week and three days of the Omer. Today is the tenth day on our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

In the kabbalistic paradigm, today is the day of tiferet (balance and harmony) within the week of gevurah (boundaries, strength, judgement.)

Today's poem is a sestina, one of my favorite poetic forms. (If you click on the "sestina" tag in the sidebar you'll see the many others which I've posted here over the years.)

Ten days down, 39 to go. What is the journey like for you so far?

The last #blogElul poem: Return

Blogelul2014-1RETURN (ELUL 29)

This month is all about return.
Take stock of who you are and start again.
You can always turn over
a new leaf. Nothing's written
in stone, no lock is sealed.
The important thing is to begin.

The habit may seem strange when you begin.
Pausing each night to turn and re-turn
the day's events in memory before they're sealed
by sleep? What's the point of that, again?
But you know your hard drive's written
by your words and deeds, over

and over. Go deep, let the waves wash over
your head. Once you're there, begin
to read the lines you've written
in your book of memory. Return
to where you started from again.
Life imprints the soft wax of your heart, sealed

like a signet ring, sealed
and drying fast. But it's not over
yet. You can try again.
Pick up your pencil and begin.
Only a few days until you'll return
your blue book, and what you've written

is what God will judge. Days written
on your body; your choices sealed
into your skin. Time to return
the library books you've kept over
due, face up to the fine, begin
to think about reading lists again.

Freedom's carved on your tablets again.
Inscribed with God's own hand, written
under your skin. Will you begin
to excavate what's concealed
inside your heart? Over
turn the harsh decree and return

again? On Yom Kippur is sealed
what now is written. Can you get over
your own fears? Begin. Be loved. Return.

This is the final poem of this year's #blogElul. Whether you've only just started reading, or whether you've been reading all the way along, thank you for sharing this journey.

(I'm already working on revising and polishing these 29 poems, and hope to make them available as a print chapbook before next year's Elul. Stay tuned for more on that.)

May your Days of Awe be awesome, meaningful, and sweet; may you be inscribed for a good year to come. Here's to 5775!


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.) You can read last year's and this year's #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are also available, lightly revised, in the print chapbook Elul Reflections.

A poem for #blogElul 11: Count

Blogelul2014-1COUNT (ELUL 11)

September ticks by. Count
your way through. It's time
to get the year's bill, measure
what the soul has spent. Turn
over your hands, see each day
marked on your palms anew.

Remember sharpened pencils, new
backpacks, how you would count
the hours of school's first day?
When we learn to resent time
an Eden is lost, a turn
we can't undo or measure.

Now how do you measure
your heart's response to new
beginnings? And in turn
do you remember to count
kindness given or received, time
to pause and breathe each day?

This is the day
that God has made: let us measure
ourselves against the marks time
has drawn on the doorframe. New
means that "before" doesn't count:
consult the old maps, turn

toward your yearnings. Return
to a clean slate each day.
Stop, this instant, to count
blessings. Who could measure
the gift of your body made new,
trees shifting colors, time

eddying like a river? It's time
to forgive yourself. Turn
around and make it new.
The sages say repent the day
before death, but who can measure
what's left in the glass? Count

your time a gift every day.
Turn toward mercy. Take the measure
of your soul anew. Make it count.

Today's poem takes me back to one of my favorite poetic forms, the sestina. (There's a whole sestina category at this blog, because I've posted so many of them over the years.) This form, which relies on six repeated end-words, seemed appropriate for today's prompt.

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.) You can read last year's and this year's #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are also available, lightly revised, in the print chapbook Elul Reflections.

Daily April poem: a Pesach sestina for #blogExodus


BlogexodusIt's time to unearth the haggadot again.
Scour the countertops before the night
we'll gather around the table, all
ears to hear the story our people tell:
once were slaves, now we're free -- that's why
the songs and foods and prayers: come and learn.

The sages say there's always more to learn
even if you're wise, discerning, have studied again
the details of the Exodus, even why
Akiva and his fellows stayed up all night.
Explain matzah, maror, paschal lamb. Tell
your children on that day, our ancestors all

were lifted up, and not them alone, but all
the generations to come, including ours. Learn
the lessons this tale comes to teach. Tell
yourself: if you're in that narrow place again
there's always hope for better. Tonight
we sing the story that makes us who we are, why

this night is different: why matzah, why
we recline, eat bitter, dip parsley in tears, all
the customs of the seder night.
The orange on the plate, to help us learn
all have a seat at the table. Now again
we make the tale our own, tell

old truths in new metaphors. It's a tell:
do you feel for the Wicked Son? (Why
does he get the bad rap for asking, again?)
Or the Good Son, memorizing all
the halakhot of Pesach: will you learn
with love as he did? Or maybe tonight

you feel like the Simple Son: "this night,
why is it special?" And you shall tell
your child on that night -- listen and learn,
the "you" is feminine, mama's job to explain why --
it's because of what God did for me, for all
of us, bringing us out of slavery again.

Seder night with One Who doesn't yet ask why:
tell that child what you cherish, all
the stories we learn, transform, repeat again.

Today's #blogExodus prompt is "learn." I thought it would be fun to write a sestina about the themes of learning, repetition, asking and telling which are so integral to Pesach.

The poem references a number of things which are in the traditional haggadah, among them the story of Akiva and his fellows staying up all night until the bedtime shema, the Four Sons, "we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt," "You shall tell your child on that day..." and "even if we were all wise, discerning, learned, scholars of Torah..." -- the passage which reminds us that no matter how much we think we know about Pesach and the story of the Exodus there's always more to learn.


A Sestina for Counting the Omer

We mark the Omer day
by day, spring unfolding light
as snowflakes in the breeze. One
follows another; we measure each week
of this dusty journey through
wild unknowing. Come and count.

Time to make our qualities count.
The kaleidoscope shifts every day,
each dawn a lens that God shines through.
What in me will be revealed as light
streams into me each week?
Seven colors of the rainbow make one

beam of white. God is One
and God's in everything we count.
Lovingkindness permeates the first week,
then boundaries, harmony, each day
a different lens for light
to warm our hearts as it glows through.

And when the Omer count is through?
We'll stand at Sinai, every one
-- every soul that's ever been -- light
as Chagall's floating angels. Count
with me, and treasure each day.
A holy pause caps every week.

Endurance comes into play: week
four. We wonder, will we make it through?
Humility and splendor in a single day,
two opposites folded into one.
Roots strengthen us as we count.
Every day, more work to do and stronger light.

Torah is black fire on white, light
of our lives. In the seventh week
time warps and ripples as we count.
Kingship and presence come through,
transcendence and immanence bundled as one,
wholly revealed on the forty-ninth day...

Feel the light now pouring through.
Each week the seven sefirot become one.
It's time to count the Omer, now, today.

Marc+Chagall+Floating+Flying+loversThe Counting of the Omer -- as regular readers no doubt know by now! -- is the holy process of marking and counting each of the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation.

In the kabbalistic system, each week represents one of the seven lower sefirot, and so does each day within each week. So the first week is the week of chesed, lovingkindness; week two is gevurah, boundaries; week three is tiferet, harmony; week four is netzach, endurance; week five is hod, humility and splendor; week six is yesod, roots or foundation; and week seven is malchut, kingship / sovereignty / Shekhinah. Within each week, also, the seven qualities play out day by day.

Chagall2"Every day there is more work to do / and stronger light" is a couplet from Marge Piercy's glorious poem "Season of the Egg," which I read every year during my Pesach seder. I abbreviated it slightly to make it work here as a single line. (You can find her poem online in this blog post -- just scroll down a bit.) And as for the reference to Chagall's floating angels, here are thumbnails of two beautiful Marc Chagall paintings which feature people floating. I like to think of them as people whose spirits can't help but soar.

2 Nisan: Retelling (Pesach Sestina for #blogExodus)

The story's always ours to tell:
how Moses demanded that Pharaoh free
the Hebrews. We'd forgotten how to ask
for open air, for rest, for the taste
of all the possibilities of spring.
So God ordered: let My people go.

Pharaoh said: who exactly intends to go?
Maybe the men, sure, but don't tell
me you intend to try to spring
the women and children free.
Moses stammered. He knew the taste
of words locked tight, unable to ask.

This time the words were God's own task.
We know how the narrative will go:
Nile turned to blood, the taste
of locusts, darkness too thick to tell
one hand from the next. We made free
with lamb's blood on the lintels that spring

and Pharaoh relented. We got to spring
through the parted waters of the sea. We didn't ask
what it would mean to be set free.
All our leaders said was, it was time to go.
Bring your children on your back, tell
the women to bake in haste. Taste

and see that God is good! Now the taste
of that flatbread hyperlinks us with spring.
The full moon of Nisan, when we tell
our tale, when our children ask
why, on this night, do we all go
to seder? We recline, free

to take our time, to learn, to eat, free
to savor matzah and maror, the taste
of liberation in our mouths. I yearn to go
and sing all night until the sun springs
over the horizon and the sages ask
if it's time for the morning shema. Tell

me: what's it like to be free in spring?
Taste the sweetness of being able to ask.
Go and sit down. We've a story to tell.

BlogExodusFor my second contribution to blogExodus, I wrote a sestina. (If you dig sestinas, you might enjoy browsing the new sestina category here, which will bring you to all of the sestinas I've posted here over the years.)

Today's theme is retelling, which is pretty much what Passover's about. In a certain way this retelling is central to Judaism all year round: we remember the Exodus daily (in our liturgy), weekly (in the Shabbat kiddush), and of course at Passover-time.

I enjoyed this chance to do some retelling in a new form.

For other people's contributions to these two weeks of Nisan pre-Pesach-blogging, keep an eye on the #blogExodus hashtag. Enjoy!

Sestina for a three-year-old


You can turn anything into a car.
Drive your bread across the bright
expanse of table, look to see
whether I'm watching, if I'll say no.
Tell me you can do it, you are big
enough, you know you are three.

On tough days I count to three
then lift you bodily into the car.
Cue wailing. "No, mommy, I'm too big,
don't do that to me!" The sun's too bright,
the music's wrong, a world of no.
Two minutes later you're chatting: "see

the fields sleeping, mommy? I see
some horses, one-two-three!"
You emerge from your funk as though no
upset ever happened, pick up a car
and zoom the length of your lap. The bright
side: you never hold a grudge, big

arms outspread, your heart as big
as the moon you greet each time you see
her in the heavens shining bright.
"Hello moon! Look, I see three
stars!" and we pause outside the car
beneath the darkening sky. There's no

rulebook on snow days, no
limits to what we can watch on the big
tv, Pocoyo in his musical red car
trundling across the white expanse to see
what he can see. Now we are three:
new family constellation bright

in the sky's expanse, bright
as your laugh when I tickle you. "No,
do it again, again! Count to three
with your hand up here." The next big
leap just over the horizon, where we can't see.
Long legs kick the passenger seat in my car.

Bright stripes and new songs: you are big
enough to say "no, I can do it, see?"
Utterly three! Come on, get in the car.

I wanted to write a poem for this week's imperfect prose prompt -- "belief" -- but I couldn't get it to work. So I tried a sestina, because sometimes the strictures of the sestina form jar my creativity into working in new ways. That was better, but still not great. I think I chose the wrong end-words; no matter what I tried, the sestina still felt sentimental and trite. So then I tried writing an entirely different sestina, on an entirely different subject, and that one, I liked. So that's the one I'm sharing today, even though it has nothing to do with the prompt that originally got me writing.

(Speaking of writing and prompts: if you're following any literary blogs which offer regular prompts, will you link me to them? I miss Big Tent Poetry and Read Write Poem.) Anyway: hope you enjoyed the poem. All feedback welcome.

Sestina for Shemini Atzeret

I haven't been writing many poems lately. (Somehow the Days of Awe are a busy time for working rabbis; go figure.) I wanted to jump-start my poetry practice again, and I've often found that a sestina is a good way to do that. (And I haven't posted one here in a while -- I think the last sestina I posted here was Charge, back in 2009...)

Today is Shemini Atzeret, the "Eighth Day of Pausing" -- day 8 of the 7-day festival of Sukkot, the day when tradition tells us God looks at us, preparing to leave our sukkot, and says "please don't go." The penultimate stanza refers to the change in our daily liturgy at this season; between Pesach and Sukkot we ask for dew, and from now until spring we'll ask for rain, in harmony with the seasonal cycle as it unfolds in Jerusalem.


From the heights of Yom Kippur we fall
into the embrace of a world that shakes,
structures so airy and light
they don't hide the autumn gold
of Berkshire hills, the white press of sky.
Funny to think of dwelling in this house:

hardly enough wall to call it a house,
these two-by-fours we hope won't fall,
roof of cornstalks open to the sky
rattling when the wind makes them shake.
Around me the trees are strung tinsel-gold.
I inhabit bright blocks of light.

Continue reading "Sestina for Shemini Atzeret" »

Read Write Prompt #106: repeat after me


I'm mesmerized by his form
even when he rouses me in the dark.
Nurse, burp, time for a change
then nurse again: it's all new,
this rhythm, his needs.
And for now, I'm his all:

source of milk, familiar sounds, all
the comforts of home. He forms
cries reedy and grizzled, need
which clenches my heart dark
and fearful. I never knew
my sense of God would change

but I see now that You are change
and these moments are holy, all
the ways he's always new.
Hard to believe his compact form
spent nine months in the dark
of my womb, every need

met. Me, I'm not sure what I need:
sleep, soothing, maybe a change
in perspective these dark
December days. For a time all
is well, but then I try to form
a sentence, an idea, something new

and my words trail off. The new
year will bring endless need
but I want to think we can form
a way through, a path to change
for everyone in this house, all
of us making our way in the dark.

Creator of light and dark,
every day You continually renew
the work of creation, all
the tiny miracles we need,
surprises and change.
Help my hands and heart to form

what these dark days need,
to embrace the new, meet change
with all the grace of this tiny form.

This week's prompt at ReadWritePoem is repeat after me, a prompt encouraging us to work with repetition. Life with a newborn has a certain repetitive quality to it, and as longtime readers know I'm a big fan of the sestina precisely because of its use of repetition, so this week I wrote a sestina in response to the RWP prompt. I'm not sure it's my finest work, but it feels good to be pushing myself to complete one draft of a poem each week, just to stay in the writing habit.

Once again, my apologies to RPW'ers -- I'm able to sneak the time it takes to work on one poem a week, and to more-or-less keep up with email (sometimes), but I don't have enough free time to be reading many blogs or to be keeping up with y'all's responses to these prompts. Please know that I appreciate your comments here tremendously, and I look forward to someday having more space in my life for reading your poetry again!

(Anyone who's interested can see how others responded to this prompt by visiting this week's get your poem on post.)



For E.

The wind was cold and salty on the day
that you and I became a new kind of "we."
You reached into your pocket for the ring
and when you first slid it onto my hand
a wild amazement cracked my heart open
and everything in my world felt new.

I would have said, then, that I knew
what it meant to wake beside you every day,
to treat each as a present to open
together. I didn't understand how we
would grow together, traveling hand
in hand on cobblestones and ring

roads, how our travels would ring
too internal continents, mapping new
territory of the heart. Since I took your hand
in the gentle rain ten years ago today
I've felt you with me, no matter where we
are. The future is wide open

like our chuppah, like our household, open
to our family of friends, the ring
of everyone who gathers when we
celebrate. Every morning is new.
That I get to walk beside you night and day
still awes me. This sign upon my hand

fills me with joy. We've each had a hand
in this handiwork, building this open
trellis within which our life blooms day
by day. It's flexible like the ring
of our arms around each other, always new.
This is the life that we

have made, and I love the way we
keep each others’ dreams close to hand.
Like watching Local Hero, something new
in every viewing; like a waltz in open
3/4 time; your voice, our vows, ring
and reverberate in me to this day.

And our faces, our hearts: we are open.
The gears of marriage turn by hand. Ring
the bells! Leap with me into a new day.


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Sestinas for everyone!

I'm on a sestina roll! I posted another one to the Best American Poetry Blog. Here's how it begins:

I certainly wouldn't claim to be the best
though I suppose no one could quibble with "American"...
Either way, I'm here to share adventures
from the Berkshires, post by post,
happy to be blogging here, a guest
of our esteemed editors, recently abroad.

In just three weeks, I too will be abroad,
combing the streets of Jerusalem to find the best
coffee and tabouli, staying as a guest
in the apartment of an extpatriate American.
I hope for easy wifi in order to post
about Hebrew, psalms, syntax, adventures...

Read the whole thing here: Sestina Featuring Six Words Commonly Used On This Blog. (And this time, unlike my two previous posts there, you can actually comment on my post if you want to.) If you're remembering that I did something similar here a few years ago, you're right; just for kicks, here's a link to Sestina Using Six Words Blogpulse Chose For Me.

Oh, and while I'm at it, let me point to a sestina I just read that knocked my socks off: Peter Cole's Palestine, A Sestina (published alongside a few of his other poems at Zeek.) It's stunning.


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School sestina

My first class of the semester began last night, so I wanted to spend part of yesterday afternoon on poetry as a way of reaffirming that my rabbinic work needn't keep me from giving time and energy also to poems. I found myself somewhat obsessed with the reality of school about to begin, though, and had a hard time focusing enough to get into my usual poetry headspace.

Following the dictum of "whatever gets in the way of the work, is the work," I took my fixation on starting school and used that as the springboard for this poem: a rabbinic school sestina.

I'm a big fan of sestinas. (I posted one here a couple years ago.) The constraints of the form are like a word game -- one that works neatly with free verse, which is what I generally write. Of course, what I generally write is still pretty different from this, so this may or may not appeal to those who like my other poems. Still, I figured I'd share; I hope you enjoy.


Brace yourself, folks! My fall semester is on the verge of beginning.
Monday nights: Jewish identity in modernity, a.k.a. enlightenment history.
Wednesday mornings: liturgy of weekday and Shabbat, the nuts and bolts of prayer.
Sunday evenings: a study of Hasidic texts and how they shape spiritual practice.
As-yet unscheduled: a tutorial in Rashi, the classic medieval commentary,
And the exegesis of the Me'or Eynayim of Chernobyl, a Hasidic rabbi.

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Blog sestina

Unless you're a Jane Siberry fan, the phrase "Everything reminds me of my blog" probably won't make you chuckle the way it does me. (Hey, I don't have a dog for everything to remind me of.) But if everything does remind you of your blog and you want to know where your blog ranks and who links to you, Blogpulse is a fine place to go. They offer this blog profile thing; I've spent a while lately exploring mine, feeding my ego with the nifty graphs and charts that show that people actually read VR. Using the recent posts feature, I found a list of ten words I apparently use often: blogosphere, rabbinic, sanctuary, wage, canvas, translated, ancestors, problematic, compares, informal. It's almost a found poem, isn't it?

For a lark, I decided to turn it into an actual poem. If these are words I repeat, I reasoned, I should choose a poetic form that makes use of repeated words: why not a sestina? Sestinas repeat six words, not ten, so four of the above terms didn't make it in -- I leave it to you to figure out which ones they are.


In this web of words and links, a sanctuary
For those who like conversations informal.
No showy stained glass: our screens serve as canvas
Showcasing creation. Our truths, translated
From original settings, let each reader compare
Her way to mine and that of my ancestors.

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