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,
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.