When This Man Prays

When this man prays in private

          Leaving a space for silence and

                   Solitary whispers

We learn that we, too,

          Can own a space in the holy dialogue

                   Between God and his people

A one-on-one – alive, immediate, almost breathless.

And when this man sings his prayer,

          Full-voiced, impassioned,

                   With urgency and gentleness

We can feel our own voices

          Lift to the dance of language

                   Our throats and lips, our tongues,

Soaring in sorrow or celebration.

When this man’s body sways in prayer,

          Each bend and gesture a sign of love

                   Or reverential doubt

We can feel the tug on our own muscles:

          Bone and blood accepting the mitzvah

                   Of the dance . . .

And in unembarrassed wholeness

          Our bodies yield their stiffness

                   Our voices are suddenly beautiful

Our private murmurings flow free from the prison of self.

          Heart and voice and limbs

                   Ascending the ladder of longing,

We are Israel, hearing, in all our ways of being,

          Hearing at last.

published in Sources of Jewish Poetry: A Thirty-Year Shirim Retrospective. Vol. 30/2 and 31/1, 2012-13.

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