Friday, January 23, 2009

My Bat Mitzvah Speech

It is standard operating procedure for the bar or bat mitzvah person to make a short speech about their faith, the torah or the haftorah reading, a favorite charity they'll be donating to or, for adults, why they have decided to become bat mitzvah. Hazzan Laurie told us we'd each have to do this. My five classmates demured at first, needed coaxing, but I'm used to public speaking as I participate in open mics or critiquing groups almost every week. I got very naked. I shocked people. My speech follows:

My section of the haftorah discusses destroying and building. You can't build unless you tear down. You can't tear down unless you have something there. My favorite Latin word, you know, if anything, I'm a Latin scholar, certainly not a Hebrew scholar, is tollere, to raze [r-a-z-e] or to raise [r-a-i-s-e]. That was me, destroying everything so I could start over. I left my spouse, I left my family, I lost my job, I left my home. So there I was. Homeless, unemployed, alone. Sounds pretty bad, doesn't it?

There was no structure to my life, no anchor. The only thing I had was me and I wondered where is there a rope to pull me out of this mess of my life? And is it a rope I can climb or is it a noose? Quite frankly, I didn't care which. Both would have served me equally well. So my friend, a retired therapist, gave me an assignment: list what you are, where you want to be and how you want to feel. He expected me to list my usual intellectual ambitions, no emotional stuff, I cringe at touchy-feely. Well, the first thing on my list was to light candles every Friday night. Small step, very doable. The second was to be bat mitzvah by the time I turned 50. Big step, very improbable.

I looked at that list, surprised. I don't know where those came from, why I put them on the list, but I knew without them, nothing else was possible. I came here for High Holy Day services last Sept, and lo and behold, you had a new hazzan. Hazzan Laurie was going to lead services every two weeks. She started Adult Ed classes and then, a b'nai mitzvah class, too. All I could think was, oh wow, there is no such thing as coincidence, or as the Hazzan says, co-inky dinks. I saw this road open before me, a road with lights, smooth, clear, straight. No more phantom trees pulling at me, breaks and creases in the asphalt tripping me, or semis trying to run me over.

Lighting candles and being bat mitzvah are still items one and two on that list, but the rest has been revised. Goals and wants aren't stagnant, not if you are living as opposed to just going through the motions. James Barrie wrote that all you need is faith, trust, and a little pixie dust: heart, mind and magic. It's here.

Thank you, Hazzan Laurie, fellow congregants for making this possible. Thank you all.

NB: My torah section was Sh'mot 1:5-7 and my haftorah was Jeremiah 1:6-10.
I replied: Oh, Eternal One!
I do not know how to speak, for I am still a child.
And the Eternal One replied: Do not say 'I am still a child.'
But you will go wherever I send you and speak whatever I command you.
Have no fear, for I am with you.
From them, I will keep you, I will deliver you-thus spake the Holy One.

The Eternal One put out His hand and touched my mouth.
He said: Herewith, I put My words into your mouth.
See, I appoint you this day over nations and kingdoms;
To uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.

Assorted Haikus

Have I told you my
fantasy? I wake with you
every morning.

Duck calls, loud, angry.
Alone at 2 a.m. Why?
It's family gone.

Car sounds on wet roads
bikers' rumble. Door clicks. Voices.
They laugh. More rain falls.

Say it. Can't? Won't?
When words, actions disagree,
remember: mouths lie.

That's it... run your hands
over me. Make me feel loved
or at least wanted.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Is every night going to be like this?

Glances up, holding a book, and smiles.
Can't know what I'm doing, working on, at the other end of the room.
But he smiles.
At me.
Because I'm here.
And he's here. With me.
That's enough to make him smile.
I keep on working, hide my smiles inside my papers.

Is every night going to be like this?

In the Dark

I write in the dark. I'm used to it, writing without looking.
My handwriting is so bad it doesn't matter if I can see it or not.
No one, including me, especially me, can read these odd scratches that go up and down and round and round and sideways all over the page.
Besides, I don't have my glasses on, anyway.
I write in the dark, by feel.
Words pour out, ink blobs, in almost quiet, skritch of nib in a cheap notebook.
Lying here, ankle clings, calves press tight.
Toes stroke the arch of his foot, his instep, curl in.
But my hand stays here, at the far end of the bed, while the rest slides closer, closer, closer.
I write in the dark, wondering when we will make love again.
Does he hear the pen moving?
What he would say if he knew what I was doing, thinking?
Will this hand, draped across my back, move into a caress?
In the time before, I wrote in the dark, hiding, to avoid a fist.
The dark was my friend. It's still my friend, but I don't hide there any longer.
Dark brings the tocsin whistle when the ducks are quiet.
Let him sleep. I'll wake him when the sky turns to a color not so black.
For now, I'll hold each breath tight to me.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year, Readers

It's been just over 18 months since I started this blog. Life has changed in so many ways. A friend commented that my work no longer reeks of anger, of fear. I hate to disabuse him, but they are still in me. They will always be in me, a part of me.

But he's right. I have changed. They are no longer in the forefront. They've moved to the back, to a manageable place. I take them out, look at them, inspect them, wonder what was wrong with me that they were my best beloved companions for so long.

Not now.

I have other traits to keep me warm, not the illusion of dry ice.Every step takes me closer to where I need to be. They are not the path. They are not the goad.

They are the memory and I don't live there any more.