חשבון הנפש - Cheshbon HaNefesh
Baruch ata grace.
Baruch ata benefit of the doubt.
Baruch ata good faith.
Baruch ata deep breath.
I need forgiveness for
still not finding my way out of the hurts.
So much so that all these years later
I am not growing past them
just growing around them
like a tree with an injury to the bark.
The oak with a metal "no littering" sign nailed into its trunk
whose bark grows around the edges,
swallowing up consonants,
is beautiful, sure, but it's also a crime against the universe.
So much so that I react to kindness like an abused puppy
pissing on the floor and biting the hand that
is only just trying to feed.
Help me to ask forgiveness
from the hands I've bitten
that were only just trying to feed.
Baruch ata teshuvah.
Baruch ata blindfolding myself and spinning around and around,
guessing the direction of the piñata,
swinging my bat in the air.
Baruch ata beating something other than myself.
Baruch ata variety packs of cheap candy.
The prize is never the point.
Teshuvah, a turning, a returning, a seeking,
a shutting off of the basement light real fast
and running up the stairs before the dark can come for you.
A learning to live alongside the dark.
Singing is breaking a glass beneath a chuppah.
There is always a sadness
around the margins or under our feet
and it's best to just acknowledge it.
It doesn't matter if it's
walking on sunshine
this little light of mine.
There is an artful yellowing around the edges
intentional but entropic
you can only control a flame so much
like an old parchment exposed to the elements
before a preservationist can get their healing hands on it.
It's the reason why
when you sing good and long
your throat inflames with a delicious soreness
the same scratchy damage you get
from smoking a pack a day
to give your voice
a sound beyond yourself.
To sand away its sweetness.
So you suck on fire and arsenic and a leaf
which is the grandson of a leaf
which is the grandson of a leaf
which was planted by a person in bondage
who sang as he planted
because what else could he do but sing.
The fire you take into your body is a girdle
and control top pantyhose
and a flatiron
and contouring foundation
it is a tool by which to become something other than yourself.
In Europe, the Jews were forced to become money lenders.
Other professions were restricted to good Christians only
so the Jews lent money on interest because that was the only way to make a living
and in so doing, they earned a reputation for greed, usury, demanding pounds of flesh.
Damned if we do, dead if we don't.
They cobbled, tailored, seamstressed, farmed
on the edges of a land promised to someone, surely not us.
Then when they were run out of town by domestic cats in cossack hats
they fled to another land promised to someone, surely not us.
Where their children never knew the right questions to ask
so they didn't bother
and shrugged off the old truths like a winter coat indoors.
My father always walked ahead of us
even, and especially, when we all had the same destination
as if he was hoping we'd one day take the hint
and when he turned around we'd be gone.
But I didn't have anywhere else to go.
The old country doesn't exist anymore.
And the new one doesn't take kindly to foundlings.
Not to mention deformed, half-crazy, race-bending foundlings with no bankable skills beyond an ancestral talent for lending.
Behind him he left a snail trail
of things that meant nothing to him
which I collected and catalogued like the lender I would one day be.
There were pictures of my mother, trigueña and tall
My sister long before I met her,
when I was still a wish in her sparkling onyx eye.
Of women who would teach me how to hold a spoon and read a book and roll my r's
and braid my hair and make arroz and pay for college and get as far away as I could before the darkness caught up with me.
There among the scraps was rock and roll music
lying on the sidewalk
daring me to sing.
I screamed my throat out and smoked like a havdalah candle
to sound like my soul.
And again among the scraps I found hashem.
If it was a dog it wouldn't have bitten me
because it would have understood that I was only just trying to feed.
I picked it up and breathed it in
it smelled like an older world and freshly brewed tea
a little sip of heaven and bergamot
wrapped in the skin of a Lisa Frank dolphin.
Impossible to see without a blindfold.
I saved it all.
Tucked away in a tote bag along with an enormous canteen of water and exactly zero dollars cash.
One man's trash.
You can borrow it, but you'll need a library card.
Here I am
my father still hasn't turned around to see if I'm behind him
and finally, I'm not.
Here I am
arisen from the algae and barnacles that clung to the Statue of Liberty
a golem made of the dirt and loosened asphalt on the shoulder of the Long Island Expressway
I write אֱמֶ֑ת—truth—on my forehead
and come alive.
I was brought into this world
on the eve of someone's new year, surely not ours.
But I come alive now.
You read my blog.