The “Inappropriate on Yom Kippur” Poem

teaI attended a poetry slam in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at Savannah’s point of poetic and fairly-traded caffienated pride, The Sentient Bean. I was so worried about not sucking in front of a new scene that I never expected to win, but so many Bay Area competitions must have sharpened my spit skills ’cause I did. More importantly, I made lots of new wordsmithy friends and have stopped feeling like a nerdy old lady amongst the artsy teenage hipsters when I go to the Bean.

This piece was written before I quit smoking, but it felt like the right one for the day. A different version was published in the Mima’amakim journal last year because the one of the editors didn’t like all the rhyming; this is the original since the published version is still in storage and I never commited it to memory. So maybe the white girl rap thing translates, maybe it doesn’t, but the coolest coffeeshop in coastal Georgia thought it kicked ass in person.

The Big You

The moon rises as a clear sharp crescent
The tea smells orange sweet
How blessed I am to have the cafe garden haven
just a few steps down my street

Sometimes I think
This is who I am!
Smoking writing biting
Off bigger ideas than I can chew
But enough about me
What about You?
Is it true God needs love too?

Is the right way to pray
To give thanks first and ask for favors later?
What if we never get earth’s shit together
And destiny murders itself along a zillion pointless ends?

I prefer to think of you as my Friend
This Presence that cares
But Y’know, sometimes it seems like You’re not really there
And we’re all traipsing around all alone

Then I think of that corny poem
The one about two sets of footprints on the beach
And I have to admit it reaches me
Even though I’d rather stand back, roll my eyes and laugh at the Jesus freaks

Even my father holds you up for ridicule
And I gather that it just ain’t cool to pray out loud
So I sit in this self-effacing cloud of smoke and I choke on the urge to share

‘Cept sometimes when I’m in a cool, stained glass synagogue
I just wanna kick back my chair and shout out
Glory Hallelujah! to the rabbi
Glory Hallelujah! to my fellow Jews who know all too well the dangers of drawing attention to themselves
Glory Hallelujah! like my heart rich soul sisters in a Southern Baptist church
Glory Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

But that would be inappropriate on, say, Yom Kippur
So my prayers takes the form of these quiet questions to You
Like, is it lonely, being the only One
While we squabble down here with money and guns?
And how do we make sense of an apparent evil so dense it creates a high shard topped fence
That shreds even the most faithful confidence in You?
And why do we suffer so hard for the perfect love, the perfect homre, the perfect poem, the perfect life
When it’s pretty much written in the plan that it can’t last?

As this present becomes past I hear no answers from You
Just two bad news teenage girls spitting on the ground
Nope, I don’t hear a sound
Oh wait, there’s someone dumping broken glass next door
Then the rustle smack
As a pack of cigarettes hits the floor

Then the wind dies down and I hear Your voice
OK, not a voice, but a hum
Coming from underneath where the trees grow
Above the moon’s glow and I know
You are what’s beyond life and death

So I sit
Sipping orange tea with You and
Remember that sound is only
And always
My breath.

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