In the Darkness of a Blizzard

At the northern edge of humanity
hidden in a polar embrace
forbidden candles flicker and dance
outside wind howls
in the hallway, workers trudge day and night

Inside, there is an island, tiny and fragile
my lips whisper blessings
my cup holds only water, not wine
my table only matzah, not challah
my family far away

I welcome the Shabbos queen
wondering if she’s visited here before
has she seen the unending night?
has she watched out for polar bears?
does she travel this far north?

I say more blessings and curl up in my bed
a small bit of comfort in a small room
a book for company
forbidden candles dying down
prayers for a safe return home on my lips

The Sabbath and I huddle together
strangers in this place
I picture my family, safe and warm
the brighter glow of welcome candles
the Sabbath and I drift off to sleep

Winter Hallel

In darkness, I awaken
the tune of Hallel in my ears
I whisper words of another tune
and greet the dark day

Summer’s light has fled the mountains
flowers bloom no more
only the raven and magpie remain
winter’s sky companions

cold rain falls
snow comes late this year
a reminder of retreating glaciers
the only constant is change

I take my vitamin D
sit in front of happy lights
remembering days without end
when sleeping was harder than waking

Winter has only begun.

Whispered Prayers Within Cube Walls

Morning sun awakens late
half the morning gone at work
I glance out the window, noting it’s return
I stand, book in hand
hidden by cubical walls

My feet point east to unseen mountains
my lips begin to flutter
my voice a whisper
they never seem to notice or hear
my prayers coded in a language unfamiliar

And so, I commune with my Father
surrounded by the modern
my lips form words from before history
I ignore my work, the ones and zeroes
I focus my mind on the infinite

I close the Siddur with a tender kiss
I close my eyes and take a deep breath
I sit back down at my computer
I re-enter this world, this life
and yearn for when I can return

The Long Arctic Rest

The mountains exhale into the chilly morning air
long breaths of mist
ancient rocky shoulders relaxing
summer’s rush fading into memory

The geese have flown and the swans follow
following the sun’s steady retreat
they seek warmer skies
leaving us to slow into fall

The summer rush ebbs, a tide receding
those of us who stay slow our steps
the bears begin to yawn
the time of slumber is near

All around time slows
the darkness sleeps in, lazy to leave
the sun has little energy to rise far
plodding slowly along the horizon

The arctic returns to peace
the sounds of birds quieted
the absences folding into silence
as nature prepares for her long rest

The arctic begins to light her Shabbos candles
flickering colors, lights in the sky
she prepares for a long season of rest
her voice quieted in hushed prayer

A Week Ago

His eyes lingered just a moment too long
focused on the heads of my husband and son
their kippahs casually sitting there
a week ago, I wouldn’t have noticed
now, a chill ran down my spine

He was normal
we were in a store
were his eyes hard, predatory?
or did he even notice us?
I say nothing to my husband, but walk a little quicker

A week ago, I wore a scarf over my hair
I went to the grocery store
no thought happened between the two
no pause to consider
this week, it would have been a long pause

My wig could use a washing, but I don’t
what if it takes too long to dry?
a week ago it would have hung to dry days
I might even have forgotten it
but that was a week ago

I see a picture in a camping group
campers setting up their trailer while others look on
a mundane moment, but today I suddenly realize
their faces are so like those reflected in torch light
a week ago, they would have seemed friendly

A week ago, my Rabbi’s cautions seemed radical
as if I knew the people I was born to better than he
how dangerous could tzitzits being seen be?
why should our men and boys wear ballcaps?
now I turn to him for wisdom

The storm seemed so far away
a week ago was a lifetime ago
I tell my proud son not to doodle stars of David
not where they can be seen
I try to tell myself little has changed

But it has.
I struggle to understand, to grasp
to measure my response as the ground shifts
the world changed from that a week ago
and I wonder how I must change, too

What is too much?  What is not enough?
what is giving in and what is provoking?
and does it really matter?
questions that are hard to answer
that weren’t even in my mind a week ago.

I am no less proud, no less determined
no less aching to be fully Jewish
but I am more cautious, more guarded
I have been awakened with an ice bath
never to slumber innocently as I did a week ago

I Woke Before the Dawn Today

The sun’s long reign has all but ended
the day dawns later
dark, rainy, a chilly pricking at my face
the clouds are low
the mountains hidden

The sun was arrogant
stealing away the night
overreaching, grasping too far
now, the night spies her chance
she begins to push him to retreat

Creation senses the impending victory
bears scrambling to eat their fill
animals preparing for their long flights south
saying their goodbyes to the midnight sun
humans trying to deny the inevitable

The time for lighting candles first inches closer
then moves in leaps
the neverending Sabbath becomes more sensible
then diminishes
we must rush to be ready

Now is a time for preparing
for last moments with the sun
for doing what has been put off
the list grows long
Fall looms near

Every Day Has Its Song

Every day is given its own song
In Hebrew, the Shir Shel Yom
they say every word of Torah was sung
As G-d sung the world into creation
A neverending song

Song sung without lips, words without sound
a frequency beyond our hearing
even a dog’s ears cannot hear
without song, nothing would be
existence ceasing the moment the tune ends

if my life is a song, what key is it sung?
is the melody happy or sad?
the tune smooth and flowing
or discordant as experimental jazz?
is my song light and lilting or heavy?

Somehow, the composer creates all songs at once
they all fit together, adding to the symphony
and no human ears can hear
no matter how different, they harmonize
blending into one note of creation

Does my song add or detract from this beauty?
Is my song important, or would it disappear unnoticed?
Is the song of my life the way the Writer intended?
Or am I sung off-key, out of tune?
Am I the instrument I was meant to be?

The singer sings on all the same.