Sunday, April 28, 2019

To the Glory of God:a poem for Poway

Come, all of us, and enter
into the place where God dwells
and bend, and bow
and offer thanks
for this place,
this moment
of grace.

Bend, and bow
and offer praise
for God's glory
in wonder
and awe.

Bend, and bow
and offer a prayer
for wholeness
and safety
and peace.

And when the shots ring out
like the voice of thunder,
and blood flows like water,
like wine, a benediction
of grief that bends you
and bows you,

Cry out, cry out!
The glory of God is forever -
mercy flows from God's left hand,
compassion from God's right.
Bend and bow then
to the lord of hosts!
Exalted is the One who 
creates harmony on high,
blessed is the One who brings peace.

And let us say, amen.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

This Holy Place: a poem for Acharei mot

What do you sacrifice
to stand in this holy place?
Do you wear your sins
like fine linen and gilded shame?
Does your skin glisten
with water and oil
and the scent of blood?

What do you offer
to stand here in this holy place,
whose walls are fitted with mirrors
of silvered glass, and
edged in guilt and hope?
They reflect and refract to infinity,
a bountiful gift of an infinite Glory.
Their smoothed surfaces
of infinite hardness
show every crack and broken sliver
when the light shines upon them,
that disappear in the shadows
and dark.

Every crack is holy, here
in this holy place where you stand:
a sacrifice, an offering,
found in the corners and littering
the earth with their bounty.
Do you stumble?
Do you love?

Place your doubt here on the altar,
and light the fire to burn
with incense and your fear,
and stand here in this holy place
of cracks and reflected Infinity,
a prayer of grace upon your lips.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What's the Story?

A few years ago, I took part in a Passover writing exercise, offered by my friend, the Rabbi (who is also a writer, and a damned good one): write a short something-or-other, based upon a given prompt, every day for the 15 days of Nisan that lead to the first seder of Passover. I tried, I really did, I tried to write something every day. A noble attempt, but it didn’t happen. Even so, I managed to kick something out for one prompt: Tell. 

Of course, the first thing I thought about, given that Passover prompt, was Bye, Bye Birdie, replete with Hugo, Kim, and Ed Sullivan. Immediately after that brain-grinding shiver, though, ├ącame Chanukah. I just couldn’t get that Chanukah song to stop running through my head. You know the one - "Who can retell the things that befell us...?" (And now it's running through yours as well; no good deed and all). It works, just the same. At least the opening verse. Just substitute Moses and Aaron and Miriam and that cast of hundreds of thousands for all those Maccabees, and you can pretty much retell the story of oppression and slavery and freedom and bloodshed and war and miracles and redemption, there and back again.

That's the part that I get stuck on, the "...and back again." We tell and we tell and we tell. It’s an awesome story, filled with heroes and pyrotechnics that could keep the special effects masters at Industrial Light and Magic on their toes and at their drawing boards for years. Decades. Forever. The stuff of life is present in every word of this story we tell, all the drama and majesty and love and passion and danger and discovery and betrayal and loss.

Tell this story. Tell it to those who ask and those who don't even know there's a story to tell. Tell it as if you were there, part of the original action. Tell it as if you are still there, that we are all still there, living and experiencing it all right now.

Tell it, and tell it again. It is that important.

But here's what I'm thinking these days (as if my statement above were not hint enough): there are far too many "again's" in our story. That is, how many times do we find ourselves in need of heroes and miracles? How many times must we tell the story of soldiers and blood and war and terror?

Yes, and redemption. And yes, God. I love that these are the base of all of the stories we tell.

When, though, do we learn? When do we change? Of course we must tell the story of the Exodus! Of course we must celebrate our journey from the very narrow places into the wide open space of the wilderness where we meet God! Of course we must tell the story of our journey from slavery to freedom.

It just seems that we tell this same story, with only slight variations, of oppression, of idols and enslavement and fear and war in every generation since then. That's a lot of generations, a lot of oppression and fear and bloodshed.

I love Passover. It’s my favorite holiday. How could it not be? I love that we are commanded to tell this story. As a writer, how could I not? But sometimes, in the quiet, away from the fury of the cleaning and preparing and the cooking, sometimes I wish we could tell the story with a different ending.

I'm a dork. I get that. Sometimes, I wish we could tell the story of a world that, because of our wondrous redemption, there in the wilderness, we needed no heroes, no magic, no soldiers, no war to save us yet again. I wish that we could finally learn that until all of us are free, none of us are. That the story we tell, year after year after day after month, ever and always is the story of everyday miracles, of peace and wholeness and grace...

Once we were slaves, now we are free.