Poems for the Days of Awe 5767

Old shul in Asbury Park

Old shul in Asbury Park
Blood of Christ Evangelical Church
The mikvah,
Now baptizing
Rosario Mendes
Fourteen years old
Ninth grader
Good in math
Bad skin
The congregation was dying
Not figuratively
Twenty seven funerals in one year
Rabbi Furst again in the Skylark, again with the black suit, Again with his wife "the funeral shoes, not the good ones."
Yes, the soundtrack has changed, but the ruach hakodesh has not left the building.
The choir still sings Halleluyah,
(now to the thump of an electric bass,
praise music they call it)
And the minister stomps his foot on the stage
the same spot grooms once broke cheap thin wine glasses under the chupah.
Forty steps out the fire exit door,
buried four feet beneath the new bar-b-q grill
lies my great-grandmother's rolled up ketubah.
a string tied around the tube,
red, like the one around Rosario's wet pony tail.

High Holiday Supplement

This year's supplement features
Letters from collection agencies
Medical charts
Death notices
Estimates for sewer drain repair
Letters of rejection
Three thousand moronic op-eds from the Wall Street Journal written by Republican party has-beens with overblown titles like 'senior strategic analyst' at think tanks in suburban Virginia with names like heritage, patriot, liberty, or apple pie. Please turn now to the supplement As we read together,
An advertisement from the British Petroleum Corporation
About one of their fabulous new 'green' initiatives
About how they care
For the planet
For the earth
For the future generations
See, they even care enough to present this ad in the color green
And the language sounds like prayer
Why bother with worn-out hymns?
Clunky psalms?
when you can read committee approved,
focus-group tested ad copy like this?

Tikkun Olam

In the zombie movie
When the teenagers discover the house of zombies
And the smart girl runs to a pay phone and calls the cops
And the cops come
And they eat the cops
And then an ambulance comes
And they eat the medics
and right after they suck out the ambulance driver's brains
the zombie guy grabs the receiver of the CB radio,
presses the button and says in that gravely zombie voice:
"Send more paramedics"
And you remember that one line
And say it over and over again
And as it grows,
To be one of those lines that you say to yourself
It is not about zombies
But about that state of the planet,
How we walk around half-dead, sucking the life out of everything, The earth, The animal kingdom, Our fellow humans.
And you imagine yourself as God, enthroned, on high,
looking out over this accident scene,
"send more paramedics."

Second Day of Rosh Hashannah Afternoon

Avinu Malkeinu
Still ringing through his head,
He flips through the channels,
Until he spots the royal purple and gold
(yes, he's a Vikings fan. Long story.)
Do you sit on that throne on high eating Tostitos from a bag? Drinking Budweiser's from a heavenly tall boy can?
Awaiting a turnover or touchdown?
Letting your gas fly at will?
Have compassion on this team.
They have an aging quarterback.
Their special teams aren't so special.
They are already expecting a losing season.
Answer them.
Do with us charity and lovingkindness.
Simple acts -
A nice wind for a fifty yard field goal,
when the sideline refs bring the chains on the field, let them stretch just a bit, a two-point conversion now and then
Save us.
From the shame of losing,
From the projected failure,
From sneaking a peek at one of those books on male depression with names like Lonely Warrior and The Pain Within, From our lethargy and laziness,
The sense of being worthless that pursues us each yard,
Wraps around our waist and tries to drag us down.
Our Father, Our King
Help us make it into the end zone.

Why Are You Troubled?

A new translation of a work by Solomon Ibn Gabirol
(11th century Jewish poet, Andalusia)
Why are you so troubled and anxious, my soul?
Be still and dwell where you are.
When you think that the earth can fit into your hand,
you won't, my ship caught in a storm, get far.
Better than wandering from place to place
is sitting at the feet of the Holy One;
if you protect yourself from the will of men you'll flourish and surely see the reward for righteous acts.
If your desire is like a walled city,
a siege will bring it down in time:
You have no earthly possession that is forever in this world - so wake for the future generations, awake.

-(C) 2006 Daniel S. Brenner