April

“April,” he promised
again and again
his words became a mantra
a lifeline in dark places
we clung to April as our life raft

Life spun us around in riptides
April became the rope tied to the shore
we saw the shore grow closer
the other side of the water became clearer
our eyes full of hope

As April grew closer, his voice grew quieter
the shore no longer was clear
fog had rolled in
we strained to hear and see
“April?” we called, the rope felt slack

With a few words, April disappeared
the rope broke
the indistinct shore drifted back to the distance
we looked at each other, eyes wide with fear
orphans lost at sea

We held each other and wept
the loss of April a sharp pain
we found our oars again and began paddling
alone in the darkness
exhausted and empty

We saw the rope of April
frayed and torn
floating on the water
disconnected, useless
we lowered our faces and kept paddling

on

no one singing or speaking
the word April now forgotten

The Sun Returns

Slowly at first, then increasing in speed
the light returns to the arctic
first weakly, it crawls across the mountains
thin rays barely scratching the snow
the ravens unaware

It sneaks up on me, quietly
without fanfare it begins to creep up
earlier it meets my days
later it takes its leave
lingering over sweet moments

In February or March, I can no longer ignore it
suddenly, I notice its advance
the ravens even chatter to each other
the rays grow thicker, stronger
its touch more insistent, clawing at the snow

Soon, the sun will tip the balance
soon it will reclaim its rule of summer
reigning over the long arctic days
banishing darkness entirely by June
the world bathed in light

For now, it is still the plucky underdog
it’s chest thrust out and chin set
forgetting its small size in the sky
arguing with the night
sparring for a fight

The moon patiently rises, amused
not realizing she’ll yet again be banished
she pays the upstart little mind
resplendent as she glows
the queen reflected in the snow

The ravens and I know the pattern
together we thank Hashem
the long winter is far from over
but there is light again in the arctic
and the promise that night will not rule long

When You Treat Me Like You

When you ask me where to find candles
just assuming I must know
my heart expands, relaxing
my eyes well with tears
simply because you counted me among your own

When you tell me “Good Shabbos”
casually as you walk by
just assuming I celebrate it
not asking me if I can break it for you
my smile widens

When you try to pass the wine bottle to me
even though its awkward and I demurr
I smile inwardly because you forgot
I blended into your world so well
it never occurred to you to ask

When I can sit, unnoticed and accepted
there is a quiet kind of peace
no justifications needed, no explanations asked
I finally feel like me
the Jewess I’ve been inside

I hold my breath as you approach
afraid you’ll ask me where I grew up or who I’m related to
not because I’m ashamed or trying to hide
because I don’t want the clock to strike midnight just yet
or this magical moment to be broken

I want to linger here just a bit longer
before the questions come and I become unusual
I want to breathe in this space just a little more
where who I was no longer matters
and who I am is all I need to be

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