Category Archives: Sonnets

Shekhinah, Reclining

On this night, she reclines. This is an easy place
to be. The head of the bed is raised precisely
to the angle where her breath flows as easily
as water trickles downhill in thin rivulets.
The foot is also raised, her knees cradled, cushioned.
Life could be worse, than to pass the night while reclined.
Still, this is a hard place to be. Harsh lights erode
any sense of mystery, while puzzles remain
formulaic and vague, shrinking into shadows
at the edges of the room. Throw beauty a bone
with a framed department store poster, flowering
like bruises under her skin. Her mind wandering,
wired-down arms puddle on the mattress (gravity
dense), while x-rays steam open the chest cavity.

Shekhinah is Grateful

Your new book came in the mail today,
the one with the painting I always
think of as mine, even though it is yours,
clearly, since you painted it. Blues, pinks; scoured
gridded tile of hospital walls, black threads
of wires and cables. The way your dad fed
your mom with a spoon as she lay in bed
and faded into your watercolors.
You wrote down the prayers as if they were code
for making something from something else: soup with
matzah balls, Carrie’s recipe for Pesach
rolls. Maybe you wrote recipes as if
they were prayers. You gave not knowing who would
frame your painting. Each day I see it I am glad.

Shekhinah Remembers

In her memories is everything, and everything has been
set aside, if not precisely forgotten. Step forward, step
back, rocking between the curious future and the just then,
the when that was not so long ago. After rollerblades, jet
boots; before skateboards, skis. And so it goes. Before Porsche, Beetle.
Before the horseless carriage, the horse. Before clippers, longboats.
Before armour, breastplates. She remembers. She has seen it all.
She has heard it all. Before brass, the shofar. After sheep, goats.
In Greece she said, remember how we lived, and they all walked out
from the cities to the grasslands, gathered seeds and mint, then drank
them together, hunted and threw the bones over cliffs. The drought
would spare them then, or not. Before Greece, blood-soaked altars smelled rank
and the bones burned to ash. After the tabernacle, temples.
Before the atom bomb, fire. And after. Memory crumbles.

Shekhinah on Pilgrimage

a labyrinth
in which sleep

the center,
mists rise, tipping

off balance.
She angles inward,

feet chilled,
hand over eyes,

trusting other senses
to guide her

Form: hay(na)ku sonnet

Shekhinah Bakes and Breaks Bread

There is no bakery for this, at least
not now. If lucky, there is enough flour
and water. That’s all that’s needed. Not yeast;
just hands to pat and press, a comb or fork
to prick, some heat to dry the salt that fell
unnoticed from weary eyes. This is bread,
way bread, travel bread, poor bread. It can swell
like aching feet, or break like an aching head.
It has no flavor, and all — tasting sweet
after salt, savory in broth, or bland
when alone. Mimic, mirror, or at peace,
this bread tries to be all things, and then ends
as sand crumbling in a dry mouth, made of
the taste of little safety and less love.

Shekhinah Stands at the Border

It is as if she has one hand in the darkest dark
and the other holds an overripe pomegranate
in hidden warmth. It is as if the beech and the bark
are unable to see each other, as if music
stops at the edge of shadow, then in the green grasses
mouths move without hope or meaning. They wait to be pierced
by harp strings, they sing when cords quiver. An owl crosses
over, watching the limbs dangling fruit, then headfirst
flies back on wings made of mute, that shed sound as the wet
rejects oil. There is an enormous sound still unheard,
an enormous sorrow set on pause, ready to tilt
and cascade into the frantic arms trying to blur
the moments between gasp and guttering, cold and clasp.

Form: 13-line sonnet

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.

After Performing at Pride

Diva and I had planned to have dinner tonight,
but we aren’t. We are sitting beside each other
at a white plastic table on white plastic chairs
wishing for water. She is the color, and I
am the quiet, even though we both draped rainbows
around ourselves (hers a feather boa and mine
a sarong gone wrong right around my neck),
even though neither of us has get-up-and-go
enough to talk. We text. She sends me Poké gifts,
and I say thank you. She says for what, and I flash
my phone so she can see we’re both in the same app.
We roll our eyes at the same time. We drip. We drift.
We cheered the drag queens, hot sun on glitter and sequins.
Drag queens still dance, music pounds, but us? We are done.

Sonnet form: Bowlesian

On Aurality

The buzz bang clatter shatter whooshing rush
of restaurant chatter. I just smile and nod.
This is not an aura, but a shockwave
pulsing against my skin with each heartbeat,
an auditory strobe staccato sheet
of porcupine pins flying in close shave
formation, grinding at 300 baud.
I practice reverse hedgehog position
as if it’s some kind of yoga. Deep breath.
Focus on the edge of the plate as if
it’s someone else’s navel. Resonance
means dialing down the grins and arrogance
all unintended, but still. My phasic
reflex stutters vibrational, compressed.

On Almost Falling

Orbiting at the edge of warmth, the sensation
of almost falling that lends a sense of sweet grace
and sweeter gracefulness, teetering and tossing
up one hand, one arm that balances and falters,
then finds its way to rest as if upon altars
or some other sacred space, the curves crisscrossing
as they define the shape of comfort, a safe space
which nonetheless pivots toward awkward salvation,
a station point, a counterbalance, like shifting
from foot to foot, from eye to eye … a dizziness
that swings and sways from slow waltz to breakdance and back,
that falters familiarly and still strange, and tracks
the lines of largeness sketched in halting drowsiness,
drawn toward perigee before pausing, wistfully.

This uses a sonnet form that I haven’t been able to find anywhere, so I might have made it up. It felt like dancing, and really seemed to suit what I wanted to do with this poem. The form has the rhyming scheme of ABCD DCBA EFG GFE, with twelve syllables per line. I liked how couplets appear in the middle, moving part of the poem, swinging towards and away those pivot points as if they carry tension, instead of resolving it.