As the Gates Begin to Close

As the sun sets on Yom Kippur — a day set aside for reflection, to evaluate our past deeds and failures, to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged, and to rededicate ourselves to a better future — I’ve decided to share this poem that evolved out of my meditations this morning.

On this day of awe,
when I turn my mind
to the blessings of my life,
and to my failure to treasure,
to honor and nurture them,
when I count my sins
of omission,
of commission,
of blindness
to what must be done,
what should be done,

my thoughts turn
to people
who have shaped my soul,
to individuals
who have crossed by path
or walked with me
or stood on a far hillside,
yes, especially those
whom I believed beyond my reach,
I stand today in awe,
of all whom I’ve known,
and those unknown,
but whom I have failed far too often.
I rise in awe,
standing in honor and praise
of the women
who’ve blessed me,
held me up
and pushed me out
to reach beyond.
My sister and sisters,
in particular two:
the sister of blood,
of life,
who shared the same womb
and rooms of our childhood,
and the sister of accident
of death,
so different from the other,
yet at heart, the same.
By example,
by choice,
by the nature of your giving,
I see your accomplishments,
my sisters,
and know I can be better,
do better,
share and care better.
My mother and mothers,
In particular four,
the bloodline that stretches through you
to those who formed me,
gave me mind and body
and a heart
that wants, needs,
cares too deeply,
breaks too easily,
and mends stronger than before,
to become larger than one.
And the unseen others
who take my hand in the darkness,
in the dance of life that links us,
encircles us,
so that we reach
round and through the spheres,
together.
May my life be worthy of you,
may my deeds
give you the strength
to rise in joy
and wisdom
so that we may help create
generations who will reach
further than we have dreamed.
I rise in awe,
standing in honor and praise
of the men
who’ve blessed me,
held me up
and pushed me out
to reach beyond,
in particular two:
my father and my lover,
my partners in wonder,
and joy,
and sorrow,
whose trust in my mind,
my heart,
my abilities,
carried me through
the darkness
of my doubts
and fears
until I could walk
alone in the sunshine,
feeling your hands
on my back,
as I would feel the
sweet breeze
of your breath,
your words,
your lives.
And all the others,
my brother and brothers,
the one unborn
who never was,
and the many unknown
who ever will be,
who reach out your hands
in accusation,
in love,
in need,
in hope
that I and the many us
might link with you
in a dance
of joy and giving
that will feed the hearts,
the minds,
the bodies
of the multitude,
creating a future
greater, richer
than a single
lonely circle of one.
As the gates begin to close
on this day of awe,
as the gates of tomorrow
have yet to open,
I ask:
please forgive me
for failing to celebrate you,
for failing to uplift you,
as I have been lovingly uplifted.
Please forgive me
for forgetting
that I am but a link
and yet even a single
lonely link
must not be broken,
if we are to encircle the spheres,
become greater,
stronger than one,
become the future
beyond our dreams.
On this day of awe,
I reach out to embrace
each and every one,
though in these times
I must not embrace,
not physically,
because, in loving,
I cannot, will not
risk the hazards
of touch,
of infection,
of death.  Instead,
I send you this
torch of life,
of dreams that you have made
the foundations of my reality.
Your existence,
your humanity,
all you have given,
continue to give,
all that you need
and continue to seek,
as you toil through your days,
your years,
take my breath away,
and fill my heart,
my being
with awe.
~Sally Wiener Grotta
Yom Kippur, 5781 (2020)

 

(The painting is “L’Ecuyere” by Marc Chagall)

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