The Biblical Garden
Intention: to operate from love and boundaries And the infinite balance between them As we head into the second half Of fire season. My heart sings show tunes In the desert tonight, the salmon hills, Always lyrical when Faced with the greatness of Expanse. And still our smallish White rectangle carries us Across the pavement, Heads down for love. My teacher's house Burns, but he and his husband Are ok. How about rewiring all this: A utopian swerve, Leaving out the creation of poison ivy, Folding up the flood And tucking it in an envelope? In the waning days of fertility I begin to have visions. I see other forms of birth. Remember when we sat at the long wooden plank With hot liquid to pour down our throats, Remember the woman with curly black hair Who threw her head back And gave me her feather when I asked? Remember the peacocks in the Biblical garden And how we swore we'd never forget them? Oh youth, so prescient, knowing even then One day I'd be here with a thousand eyes on my back, Still writing to you. I used to think I was a peacock, Now I am a snail at heart. I used to fling so outward, Now I just want to crawl. I'm happy in my slime By the mossy hearth. The year of the snail: to be slippery To cancel engagements and feel time As velvet against skin. All the boxes dissolve, This is wisdom, my body Spreading in all directions at once. They say failure is the best way to learn who you are, Sort of like peeling a banana. That's the kicker: you get born into some random place And the food there, the way the words feel in your mouth Ruin you for the rest of the world But also you know you don't belong there And never will. We used to stand together in prayer Like eagles, peacocks. We chairs in shawls, We mountains wearing hats. We rocked back and forth on the carpet Sorting ourselves into small piles. Now we measure the feet between us. A voice in my heart keeps saying, Why can't you let it go? All of it. Why paint your eyelids the color of compost When sooner or later, the earth will do that for you? And another voice answers, free me from this language, I never asked to live here. And another voice answers, This is how it feels When a new era begins.
Yom Kippur Nusach
I. Hey it’s I know we haven’t talked in I was just thinking about when we Hope it’s ok to Is this still II. I remember your soft pink sweater or was that your body I do notice when you are quiet Aries the first house, Keter the first sephirah We sip our blackberry sour and get into it deep I pay for your drinks and apologize to the bartender Renaissance moon outside A sneeze so brave it blows my fear away Brave belly to be so soft Among all this hatred of women III. Mother’s Day, oh hell Crying in bed with seven-year-old That’s the line: we all affect each other But a mother has to hold her own self My daughter helps me understand Your loneliness, God IV. Sorry I am such a bad texter G-d I’m not mad I promise just Busy busy like busybusy You know like the Begonia cutting growing its Little white legs into the water Newborn rooting for his Mama’s dark nipple-coin Busybusy and I keep forgetting to breathe Your lessening air V. You were vain You thought I was better than I was You thought I was on this earth to love you You thought we were made for each other You thought I was your mother You thought you were my mother You unfriended me You blocked me You left Still I can’t forget you Still I can’t stop thinking about you
My Green Shul
My firstborn you came into the world On the night of the Double Left Boundaries of boundaries, you refused to leave So they pulled you from my belly Little Galila even then you were so stubborn Now we have completed nine cycles together Animal love overlaid with the texture of hours Spent in each other’s rage and sweetness Together we have studied The Night Torah And who is Lilith but you and I, love Some secrets can only be learned in refusal Some secrets can only be learned after midnight Liminal ears of corn standing at attention In the moonlight A field of the letter vav O Heavens, lift me up So my shoulders will stop hurting Watch over my Galila Let me live to see grandchildren I will bring them into my small green shul Teach them holy letters and plants and stars With Galila beside me We’ll get it half-right like everybody does
Alicia Jo Rabins is an award-winning writer, musician, performer, and Torah teacher. She is the author of two poetry books, Divinity School (APR/Honickman First Book Prize) and Fruit Geode (an NYTBR New & Notable selection), and a forthcoming book of essays about Jewish texts and early parenthood, Even God Had Bad Parenting Days (Behrman House). As a musician, Rabins is the creator and performer of Girls in Trouble, an indie-folk song cycle about women in Torah with three albums and accompanying study guides. Most recently she is the creator, star, and composer of A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff, an independent feature film which The Atlantic calls “a blessing.” Visit her at www.aliciajo.com.