Saturday, April 17, 2010

Blessing the day . . .

היום שמונה עשר יום שהם שני שבועות וארבעה יומים בעמר
Today is the eighteenth day, making two weeks and four days of the omer
נצח שבתפארת

A day of perseverance in a week of compassion

The words needed to express my thoughts are not coming easily these days. But this practice is about writing and noting each day, irregardless of the origins of the words. Like using the siddur when in prayer, I can feel my thoughts reflected in the beautiful reflections of others.

On this Shabbat, I share with you a poem from Marge Piercy, "The art of blessing the day," the title poem of a collection containing "Poems with a Jewish Theme." As I have been spending time looking at my Jewish practice, this poem reminds me what the practice brings to my life.

This is the blessing for rain after drought:
Come down, wash the air so it shimmers,
a perfumed shawl of lavender chiffon.
Let the parched leaves suckle and swell.
Enter my skin, wash me for the little
chrysalis of sleep rocked in your plashing.
In the morning the word is peeled to shining.

This is the blessing for sun after long rain:
Now everything shakes itself free and rises.
The trees are bright as pushcart ices.
Every last lily opens its satin thighs.
The bees dance and roll in pollen
and the cardinal at the top of the pine
sings at full throttle, fountaining.

This is the blessing for a ripe peach:
This is luck made round. Frost can nip
the blossom, kill the bee. It can drop,
a hard green useless nut. Brown fungus,
the burrowing worm that coils in rot can
blemish it and wind crush it on the ground.
Yet this peach fills my mouth with juicy sun.

this is the blessing for the first garden tomato:
Those green boxes of tasteless acid the store
sells in January; those red things with the savor
of wet chalk, they mock your fragrant name.
How far and sweet you are weighing down my palm,
warm as the flank of a cow in the sun.
Your are the savor of summer in a thin red skin.

This is the blessing for a political victory:
Although I shall not forget that t hings
work in increments and epicycles and sometime
leaps that half the time fall back down,
let's not relinquish dancing while the music
fits into our hips and bounces our heels.
We must never forget, pleasure is real as pain.

The blessing for the return of a favorite cat,
the blessing for love returned, for friends'
return, for money received and unexpected,
the blessing for the rising of the bread,
the sun, the oppressed. I am not sentimental
about old men mumbling hte Hebrew by rote
with no more feeling that one says gesundheit.

But the discipline of blessings is to taste
each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet
and the salty, and be glad for what does not
hurt. The art is in compressing attention
to each little and big blossom of the tree
of life, to let the tongue sing each fruit,
its savor, its aroma, and its use.

Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
Can't bless it, get ready to make it new.

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