Tashlich by Lee Sharkey


I kneaded a loaf of my failings and fed it to the fish.
Sleepless, worn thin by presumption,
pierced by regret, I stumbled, fumble-tongued.
I woke. Something was golden and riding the wind:
either it was small and close or it was large and distant,
maybe a spider dancing on a thread,
maybe a leaf in a languid loop de loop
I was drawn to enter.
For a moment I had the integrity of an envelope,
for a moment I was a bush flowered with bees,
a beaver pond’s stilled eye.
Then wind swept in a tunnel where leaves came tumbling,
first gold, then terra cotta. One step, another.
One mother’s child, one father’s darling following,
bent-kneed, wind-combed—
My friend says we are all strands in the web of life,
ethereal beings waiting to taste the flowers.
I have Jewish feet and a feet-on-the-ground stubbornness;
I’m not much for such vocabularies. Where I come from
whoever heard of an afterlife.
But mother said spoon and I said spoon,
mother said Don’t touch the filthy ashtray and I said
Here mommy, filthy ashtray mommy said don’t touch.
Words travel through pitch-dark centuries
to touch my recalcitrant body.
Ruach, they say and I say ruach.


Ruach, Hebrew for "breath"

This poem was the winner of the 2016 RHINO Editor's Prize.