The Cry: A Poem for Rosh Hashanah

The Cry

“Heed the cry of the shofar!”
the crowd reads in unison,
the hum of the air conditioning system,
the monotone reserved for special occasions,
the hundreds of pairs of eyeglasses perched on the end of noses,
the heavy prayer-books held at a slight angle.

And when we turn the page, not so much in unison, and the cantor lifts the long, curly, brightly polished ram’s horn bought on a last trip to Jerusalem,

We wait for it.

A-roooooooooooo. A-roooo. A-rooooo.
And I say to myself:
Would you call this a cry?

It sounds like something you might hear at a truck stop.
A low bellow, a trombone-like elongated honk.

A-roooo. A-rooooo. A-roooo.


I don’t know about you, but I came for the sound of heartbreak and disappointment.   
I came for squawky squeals, exasperated red-faces, eeked out chirps of grief and failure, sorrow and mourning, regret and remorse.

I came for frailty.

I will not heed the cry of a Cadillac of a shofar played by someone with a Master’s degree in sacred music!  

Give me an illiterate shepherd boy with a pure heart who stumbles over the alef-bet!
A childless woman so distraught and desperate in her plea that they mistake her for a drunkard!
A mother who can’t bare the pain of watching her baby die of thirst!
An aging prophet who drinks in the suffering of the exiles and dreams of redemption!

I channel the inner shofar,
the breath that wheezes through me,
the held-back sighs,
the self-storage container of loss,
the backed-up memory banks of hurt,
my first cry and my last
and every one in between.

-      -  Daniel S. Brenner, 5773