Yom Kippur

The sunlight didn’t break, we are broken, the word ‘broken’ is broken. (Yehuda Amichai)

Today, everything hurts, and I’m as close to god as I’ll ever come,
or want to be.  I try to forgive myself, fist knocking at the chest,
a door that forgot how to open.  The prayer book’s spine
against my palms, I sing loudly to drown out the dandruff
flaked on the suit in the next row, sing as if  I do believe,
as if  the fervor had not been rocked out of me by the Cantor
whose polioed leg rubbed into me as we sang together in front
of the high holiday congregation, as if I were still his student
and he could still grip my waist –   always his smell of yellow breath
and wear. That was when the old men said girls can never be
rabbis, girls can’t stand  before the torah. And now in the synagogue,
familiar as the couch leg that catches my pinky toe when I walk past it,
I think of the woman asleep in the window well on my block, blonde
wisping out of a hoodie, sneakers on the sidewalk like slippers by a bed.
No, I’m not hungry, she said.  I come to this sanctuary from that chill,
wonder if this is the night, the last time, I’ll try to  get that door open.

from Contrary, University of Chicago’s Literary Journal, contrarymagazine.com, Fall 2011