Earned

Two Brothers

Two brothers, Moses and Aaron
Here comes Aaron with his robes
The billowing sleeves
Good words
I want.

But those afternoons with Moses —
Hunched over a cup of coffee at the diner
I need.

Small alef; poetry Emor 2
Maqam Sigah
E half-flat F G
Every portion has a maqam
musical figure from the Arabic
cognate in Hebrew
Maqom – Place

Holy Priest-Man

O Holy Priest-Man

O holy Kohanim
Priest-men of the old Temple
For he is holy to God [Lev.21:7]
Father to son
Ki kadosh hu
Because he is holy to his G*d.

Next verse
You shall make him holy [21:8]
Who is you?

Priest-man is holy because he serves —
He has earned his holiness cred
By serving you.

Small alef; poetry Emor 1
Maqam Sigah
E half-flat F G

Every portion has a maqam
musical figure
from the Arabic
cognate in Hebrew
Maqom – Place

Get Real pt. 3

Don’t Hate and Don’t Carry

Rabbi Akiva told me
this is a major rule in the Torah —

love your friend as [you love]
yourself [Lev.19:18]

Look to the context —
the verse before:
you shall not hate your brother in your heart
you shall surely rebuke your neighbor
and not carry sin because of him [Lev.19:17].

Unusual progression
you shall not hate your brother to
you shall surely rebuke your neighbor
not carry sin because of your neighbor
to: love.

Only love has that kind of power
to heal.

We don’t lead with love
but we come to love,

we have moved through
don’t hate
surely rebuke
don’t carry someone else’s sin
don’t take vengeance
don’t bear a grudge
only

love —

I am Hashem
the way of love
the true healing.

jsg, usa

Small alef; poetry Kedoshim 3
Maqam Saba

D E half-flat F G flat

Be Real pt. 2

Major Rule

Rabbi Akiva told me
this is a major rule in the Torah —

love your friend as [you love]
yourself [Lev.19:18]

Re’acha – your friend –
it’s a close relation.

And there’s an extra lamed attached to re’acha
le-re’acha
we expected et the common call to the accusative

Ramban told me it was exaggerated language [haflaga]
impossible to love someone else as you love

yourself –

be real.

jsg, usa
Small alef; poetry Kedoshim 2

Be Real R. Akiva told me

Rabbi Akiva told me
this is a major rule in the Torah —

love your friend as [you love]
yourself [Lev.19:18]
Rashi’s grandson made sure I added the [you love]

his grandpa taught him that it only applied
to people who are worthy of your love.

There are limits —
some people aren’t so worthy
you don’t have to love them — [Rashi on Deut:13:19, Prov.3:30]

Get real.

Small alef; poetry Kedoshim

Maqam Saba

D E half-flat F G flat

Consider the Mother

Consider the Mother

Consider the mother of the pitiful Nadav and Avihu
Aaron’s sons who die too close to the Source
with their strange fire
they brought something unfamiliar –

In another generation they would be kings for it.

Their mother is not mentioned
Elisheva bat Aminadav —
everyone in her family has ascended
her brother-in-law Moses like a king
her brother Nachshon like a prince
her husband to high priest
her sons –
dead.

We have no sense that
loss of our loved ones is God’s gain
we have no sense that this is consolation
we are hollering for our beloveds
whenever they leave us —

Elisheva bat Aminadav is not happy

She chooses silence.

Get up I tell her.
Rend your clothes then howl out of your silence
throw up your disgust into the dust
let everyone know how you feel
some with words some without.

Let them know what you think of their successes
the positions they hold
their responsibilities.

Elisheva bat Aminadav
is howling for all the mothers
and the fathers who are mothers
who love no crown more than the crown
of motherhood.

Tell them you are not getting on with it
until the muscle of this sadness is gone from your hands
and the music gone from your mouth
all sound gone from your ears

Only when there is no memory of loss
Will your loss be quieted.

jsg, usa

Small alef; poetry Acharei Mot
Maqam Hijaz

We Have To Begin With Sadness

We Have to Begin With Sadness

We have to begin with sadness
in the maqam
the hijaz
always reserved for sad stories*

*Death of Sara
Abraham
Joseph
Jacob
Nadav and Avihu
the shame of the golden calf
the spies and their failure to understand
the Sabbath before Tisha B’Av (first portion of Deuteronomy)
the saddest day of the Jewish year
all maqam hijaz.

There’s plenty to be unhappy about
But —

I grabbed on to a hook
Dropped mercifully from the sky —

It settled just above my head
High enough that if I hadn’t looked

I could have missed it.

I had the good sense [for once]

To grab hold of it
It was maqam hijaz
sent to lift me up
And out.

I flew over my city
one eye laughing
one eye crying.

Acharei Mot; small alef poetry
Maqam Hijaz

Maqam Hijaz* D E-flat F# G
Maqam musical figure
modal form
cognate of Hebrew Makom,
signifying
Place