Note: Here are two poems that contain prayers, one in Hebrew and one in Latin--in the spirit of ecumenism. The song, Lekhah Dodi, is part of every Friday night service at my shul, the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore. I always find it moving, though my attendance Friday nights has been charitably referred to as spotty. The narrative recounting my trip to the Benedectine Priory in Weston, VT is somewhat true. The details are somewhat hazy. What I know for sure: the singing, the welcome, the hospitality were all lovely and memorable. For more fictions, visit me at alanwalowitz.com.
Lekhah Dodi (Come, My Beloved)
Sung on Friday night as Shabbat begins, to greet the Shabbat bride. During the singing of the last verse, the entire congregation rises and turns to the west towards the setting sun, to greet "Queen Shabbat" as she arrives.
I have welcomed my beloved
too many times to think of this as new.
Yet here I am again, at what ought to be beginning,
back turned to the week, face to the door,
hardly richer for the settlements I have made,
the sum of all mistakes that’ve come before,
bills paid and too many left with a sigh, unopened.
The phone’s rung off the hook unanswered and insistent
though your voice that follows so often
reminds me that my presence is long overdue
or, God forbid, no longer required.
I have heard you promise, the wretched week will fade to the past
but only until I hear the footsteps in the distance
that rise like a gentle wave on the beach at dusk, will I believe.
Ah, the subtle music, the fragrance, then open your eyes--
a celebrant she comes, and will I only have the will
to go and meet her, look beneath the veil
and ready myself to embrace the joy
that should be mine by birthright.
Appears in A Poet’s Siddur, Ain’t Got No Press, 2017
Late Check-in at the Weston Priory
This is what happens after all-you-can-eat Friday fish
at HoJo’s in Pittsfield, and burning oil for what seems like hours
round, and round again, in what ought to be the Green Mountains--
you can’t find the directions you scribbled on a piece of rolling paper
and can barely see the map leaning over from the driver’s seat
into the light of the glove box, the AM radio coming in and out
like a horn-player gone crazy with his mute,
then past the cemetery that’s always open,
the Vermont Country Store closed for hours,
the penny-candy put to bed, the tourists long tucked in.
But they’re expecting you at the Priory, so they’ve kept the crickets awake,
for authenticity’s sake, and the frogs with their belly-farts,
and the rest of the night-sounds
which is really the silence you’ve never heard in all the clangor of your city,
the same way you’ve never seen the stars
for all the lampposts you’ve sat beneath and stared up at so long and thought,
Cool, this is cool, look at that penumbra!
and when you crane your neck it can make you dizzy,
both from the acres of stars and what you’ve been inhaling.
Yet, they leave a note of welcome, the friars, pinned to the front door.
They know your name—it’s unnerving—though they’ve never heard of locks or keys
and the cell to which you’ve been assigned is too neat even for being so spare.
So, you struggle out of your clothes and crawl onto the pallet that passes for a bed,
and minutes later you’re awakened into a light you’ve never seen,
a light you’ve never known had a name,
and the eerie singing of the brothers—soft, ethereal, insistent:
Deum verum, unum in Trinitate. Deum verum
as they’re moving through the hallway,
and at last, thank God, past your room,
but have left a low hum in your head,
heading for Matins, the Canonical Hour,
it says on a Fact Sheet in a frame on the wall.
And who are you to say there aren’t three gods wrapped in one?
You follow down to the chapel in your underwear,
lurking in the shadows of those lean, obeisant men in their cowls,
thinking all the time you’ve probably died
and who are you to say, there is no heaven?
Though your rabbi has said
if we can only fix the world enough
this, too, can be the Kingdom.
And you finally know, the rabbi must be right--
if only for the singing.
© 2018 Alan Walowitz
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