Category Archives: Forms

Shekhinah in Blue

for Robin

Each light she touches turns to blue: turquoise,
iris, steel, sky. She glows with blue, haloed
with color against the night, fingers poised
and playing fusion of jazz and shadow
on piano keys transparent as glass, ice.
Each note is a chime past human hearing,
and the measure to which she dances flies
through interstellar space, disappearing
into dust and memories, then spinning
back to life not as lost as we believed,
in the end become in the beginning,
a change of time, a change of place, she breathes
and sings, half clarinet and half cello,
the blues whirling inside her, still indigo.

Shekhinah Visits the Mermaids

As soon as she enters the blue waters
the younglings know Grandma is coming
to visit. Fingerlings and fry
dart close but then hang back just
a little, while hatchlings
and spawn swarm past her,
writhing around
in mouthless
her form,
a vibrating
halo that tickles
her skin, her shape, her strange
tail-like legs silhouetted.
Laughing soundlessly, she waves them
away from her face, then slowly pulses
her hands and feet in unison, as if
they are small flippers, stabilizing
her position in the current.
Later, when the small ones leave
to play, or feed, or fight,
or sleep, she and those
older ones slip
away, slide
that shelter
and sway, blurring
their mute hands dancing
in a silent grownup
conversation. The kelp blades
dance with them, delicious forest
of fronds and friends. No one remembers
who it is that first asks the question, Where
are the sweet waters going? What would
we eat if we move to the deeps?
What about the eldest of
elders who no longer
swim strong, but simply
place themselves where
the waters
move them,
wait for
what waters
will bring to them?
Deep into the dark
they talk and make plans, hands
fluttering purposefully
even as their skin begins to
glow, the shadows of the wavering
seaweed carve their light in thin strips that move
and glide, a mirage that fools none of them.

This is part of Rita’s belated birthday present.

Shekhinah, Solitary

In silence, she becomes wordless,
murmurs with meaning and without
definitions. She calls forth sounds,
and a minyan emerges from
what moves with her: The dust floating
in sunlight. Echo of her pulse.
Blur of a world that moves so fast,
her senses miss it going by.
Shining, the skin, polished and flushed,
pink. Eyes that itch, or ache, or leak.
Hands of the heart play against drums
inside her ear, invisible
taiko only she can hear: boom
when she stands, a hissing of rain
when she sleeps, then the crackling fire.
There is an ache in the bones. Hers
or the house? It doesn’t matter.
Both. The plumbing circles, gurgles,
collapses. The darkness is drenched.
The moon joins her minyan, grey
or bright, turned towards, turned away.

On My Father’s Fifth Yahrzeit

I’m making your favorite dinner. Red, green,
white. It’s like a Christmas card. Tomatoes
and peppers. Onions, chopped coarse and scattered
over a field of red like white beads. Flecks
of color from peppers. Handfuls of spice.
Simmering all together, the way we
simmered and softened in summer’s too high
heat, boiling over the tall pot’s edges.
While cooking, I fret over the house; it’s
falling apart. The fridge door is broken.
You’d know how to fix it, but I’ve taped it
together with duct tape, some neon pink,
some zebra striped. The toilet doesn’t flush
properly. You’d know how to fix that, too.
I know how, but like you, I have bad knees,
and like you at the end, am just too old
and broken to make it all the way down
to the floor and still expect to get back
up. Yeah, no. So the toilet doesn’t work.
They told me how you fell, and broke, and tried
to drag yourself onto your feet again
clinging to the bathroom doorknob until
the knob bent, and the door came loose, and you
fell again, and passed out from the pain. They
found you a couple days later. That
wasn’t how you died, just a beginning
of the end, one of many. If I try
to choose just one beginning for the end,
I always find myself going further
and further back in time, and finally
give up, saying beginnings are the end.
They say we can’t escape our past, it comes
to find us, over and over again
throughout our lives. I don’t know the stories
you carried in silence, apparently
at ease in your favorite chair, not speaking.
I know some of my mother’s secrets. Some
of my own. I know how they swell inside
as we walk through life, finding as life shrinks
our secrets don’t, but grow, and become more
of us, infiltrating, grabbing onto
bits of life around us and pulling them
either into and through us or into
the stories we don’t tell. I believe that’s
what makes our death a blessing or a curse,
at least in part. Now, we are taught to ask,
“What happened to you?” That’s not what people
used to ask. Neighbors. Coworkers. We said,
“Why did you do that?” “Why do you do such
terrible/wonderful things?” What were you
thinking?” Or we asked nothing, just blamed. Or
praised. Either way, it was a fiction, and
it was real. As real as the comfort of
your daily rosary, the beads shifting
in your hands, over and over, the prayers
a shield and a gift. I light a candle
you would never have lit, and murmur prayers
you never learned, and remember you as
a puzzle, with pieces missing. This is
as it should be. It is what it is. We
are what we are. Or were. Or will be. Amen.

Seeing Ilya Read

“You are wonderful poets,” he begins,
gently generous. His eyes insist this

is not impersonal. He reminds me
of poets who were kind to me when I

was the young one — Creeley, Berry, Snodgrass.
When he reads, his voice changes tone and pitch,

rhythm and personality, assumes
(I imagine) the rich voice lent to him

by his father, and all the fathers who
spoke before. Urgently, he flings himself

into the words as if they are weapons
fired too late to stop the tears left by those

others; as if they are scrolls set on fire;
as if his mouth is full of tears before

he speaks; as if we should already know
he means every word, but he understands

we may not believe, we may not ourselves
understand. So he helps us follow words

by drawing dance steps through the air, dotted
lines that appear like gestures of language

sculpted with his fervor for this, for what
must be said, for what he has said before,

and again, so many times now, waiting
still to be heard by someone who has not

met these words before. Now and then he takes
a step with tenderness, wrapped in woolen

memories as if a child’s blanket curves
and spins around him; he waltzes to words.

Shekhinah Rents a TARDIS For Her Wedding, and Travels to Somewhere Near Now

Once upon a time she wore sheer veils and her gown tore as she raced through a garden of thorns. The dried blossoms fell as she passed, the ripening fruit stained her scratches.

Once upon a time she covered herself from head to toe, and lay against the sands, only her eyes visible, looking up through air thin and sharp at a night thick with stars.

The dark was not stitched with straight lines, a silvery web of dot-to-dot, but painted with shadow and scent and the whispers of snakes, sculpted with a nuance as rounded as the dunes and sanded smooth with echoes of a far away hunger.

Once she wore a hat of leaves and dreams, taller than a bishop’s mitre. Once she wore a dress of galaxies, having drawn across her body a map to the universe.

Once she stood at the door as it opened, and it opened to a room she’d never seen before; it opened to a crowd of men who stared at her, and she refused to meet their eyes.

Once upon a time the moon shone full, and she watched it move across the sky, blurring the nearest stars, as if it was a cherubim of a thousand eyes with wings that shiver in the air.

Once upon a time she watched all the moons of all the planets rise, and set, and rise again, some swift, some slow. All were beautiful.

Once she measured wires and atoms, and embroidered them into the edges of the story she saw coming. She carefully wrote down the dust of the electric in her ledger, noting the way the light spilled and the shadow spread.

Once she walked barefoot for miles, and danced in whatever mud she found along the way. If she fell, she painted her bruises with more mud.

Once upon a time she wrapped herself in a shawl, and wrapped rags around her feet to catch the blood that ran down her legs.

Once she tied on an apron, stood over the heat, and stirred together apricots and onions, nuts and rice, orange blossoms and cinnamon and salt. Once she lay against pillows with her eyes closed, waiting for the plate that was coming.

Once she stood at the door as it opened, and it opened to a crowd of men who stared at her, and she stared back, until they looked away.

Once she counted the eyes of the animals before her — the bear, the wolf, the lion, the bull. Once upon a time she stood at the rail of the ship, drenched with mist as the whale breached and bowed. She bowed back.

Once upon a time she floated in the clouds of light that stretch from star to star, enormous and unseen.

Once upon a time wine glasses chimed and laughter shattered as she guided her guests through the crowded room. She was so quiet they had to bend close to hear her.

Once she wore a kippah the color of myrtle blossoms and wide-legged pants of shimmering silk. Her hips curved, her waist sloped, her arms raised and held up the wind. Her arms lowered and circled her love.

Once upon a time, the animals gathered around her, and she stroked their soft fur, their silken scales, their warm and shivering feathers.

Once someone tried to hold her and she flinched. Once someone tried to hold her and she sighed. Once she was asked what she says to the morning and the evening. Shhh, she answered, listen, listen.

Time For Light

It is time for light
to tip over and spill
into the darkness.

It is time for light
to transmute darkness
into shades of blue —

from midnight to aqua,
robin’s eggs (fragile
and lined with cream when

they drop, crack, break
open, revealing
curves of accidental

blue in whatever grass
cradles them, wherever
they fell). In this time

before light, we have ice,
cold and hard as stone,
but where we find light

mingled with shadow,
there is water pooled,
pooling, warm as skin,

and we are to be
naked in it, as if
it is safe, as if

it is a holy place,
as if we float
on a radiant

silence. It is time
for light to move through
the membrane dividing

what is seen from what is
unseen, unobserved,
unwitnessed. Water.

There it is, and we are
to walk into it
as if we have no plan

to return, as if we don’t
know where is the shore
and what it means to be

living. As if we are
alive right now, here
in the dark and cold.

As if entering
water means something.
What, I don’t yet know.

As if water has
never carried hurt.
As if we were not

already drowning
in these fresh waters.
There is light, and water.

We are, no, I am
to be naked in it.
As if no one ever

forced me into water,
or under water,
as if no one has

ever forced water
into me. It is time
for light to tip over

and spill like oil from lamps
unlit and lined up
against a wall painted

white, but still in shadow;
spilling like oil from
a lamp on fire, pouring

the burning, fire running
like water along
a crevice, the line

between dark and light
(day and night, black and white,
blade and flight, wound and fight).

There is a thread of blood
in the water, in the
fire, in the light. It is

time for light to tip
over and spill red
along the edges

of dawn, shivering
as if we are stepping
through a mirage into

water, or into Spring,
or into waking, or
into day. It is time.