Poetry for the Rosh Hashanah Meal

Eating the New Year

The ram’s head,
My great times great grandfather would eat,
To welcome the new year with words
“May we be the head and not the tail!”

But you, my son,
Dip apples into honey,
And did you remember to say
“To make for us a good and sweet year?”

At first we wished for abundance.
Your great times great-great grandfathers
tillers of soil,
(that was our side of the curse)
greeted the new year with
pumpkins and beans
and made poetic blessings from the names of each vegetable
and they added figs and pomegranate,
Meditating on the seeds, saying,
“Prosper! Prosper!”

Your great times great times great great grandfather,
When he was a boy,
Would climb the date palm, crush the sweet dates into a paste.
Feed them to your great times great times great times great grandfather with a spoon made of olive wood.
Old man saying:
May it be a sweet one.
Last year of his life.

Apples we discovered. And we slathered our date honey on them and said:
“Could there ever be anything sweeter together?”

And when we didn’t have date honey, we dipped them in sugar, and when not in sugar, into bee honey. “For a sweet new year.”

These waxed apples, this honey
so processed it looks like apple juice
those fingers which have hardly touched the earth
you, my son, are inheriting a world that is but a shadow of what once was…

But still you make a blessing,
Still you do with eyes closed,
and think of great times great grandfathers,
their eyes closed too, their eyes closed too.  

- Daniel S. Brenner