Plain American Language

I cut a sliver/of WC William's finger
and placed it inside/my philosophy...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Teshuva (brace yrself, it's a long one)

What we've never had is a song
and what we've had is a song.

When I was biking down 16th street,
thinking how to run a half-baked workshop

about forgiveness, I was more wrapped
in thoughts of reproach--blaming myself for

the misdeed of not thinking about this workshop
not putting the time into it, not reading enough,

providing contemporary examples. In the meantime
friends at my apartment drowned in cookie bliss

and, though the wind was thick and pleasant--
a warm towel thrown repeatedly by my face

and bare hands--there was very little calm.
We came to talking about forgiveness,

at the end, at the workshop, lasting and lingering on each one person's
tongue, a salted, unwondrous lick.

Pencils sharpened, I am in
front of everyone
this feels as if a sail wrapped around
I have just tripped on a banana
peel backward falling
feeling and the floating
moment before ripping up the
silence of a silent moment
with an awkward guffaw
as if seeing someone slip
on his own words. Then we
begin to think about forgiveness.

Teshuva, from what I understand, means turning, and not repentance. To repent seems too Christian and overwhelming and doesn't do justice, I feel, to the feelings we feel when we examine ourselves and the mistakes we have made so that we may finally ask for forgiveness. Turning, on the other hand, in which way, into which wind, into whose arms, into what broad field, into whose alliance, into what hand, into which direction. To turn, perhaps, as a wheel, or a chair or table, as a pencil or piece of fruit in the milken sun. Apples dipped in honey, apples dipped and honey, then we wait and turn to forgiveness.

Tell that old man
on Rosh Hashanah to tremble
only on the inside.

Everyone is waiting
for them to matter
though isn't this our day to do it.

He cried while leading--
who by fire, who by water.

I have been singing this
all day long--for what?
A call, forgiveness.

It is difficult to pinpoint
the song in a city
I am familiar with and love--
surprised as I am by these buildings on Porter Street
that were finished
and all that space
like blown glass--I am in love
with the fire set inside a glassblower's
I don't know what it's called, rod,
so incessantly orange
what glows like that on this earth,
not even dark or amber honey has that
distinct glow--
it sings as if it never had a song
to sing. Yet. At this point of the new year,
I am only hoping to be like glass--
there is always an ember
in it, it is still, lit--
just look at its stars
and speckles as it glows.

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