1. after the service
On the doorway of a dwelling
beside the synagogue in Krakow –
an indentation, a space
in the shape of a mazuza,
what we are commanded
to fasten to our gates
so that each time we arrive
or leave we press
our fingertips to our lips
and touch the one prayer
that will recall us
to our lives. A trespasser
on the threshold, I look
both ways and kiss the emptiness.
2. miller’s chapel
Not the main sanctuary, with its white dome
and the choir and the microphone for the rabbi,
but this tiny room in the back of a basement,
some tapestry, the ark, a few scattered chairs,
the same minyan of mourners that gathers in the hour
of first light, shuffling in with their shadows.
On both sides, windows, the surrounding trees,
so when the service calls for them to sing the Shema
or the Alenu, they are birds chirping in Hebrew
and the song arises from out of a deep forest.
Just dawn, it is all part of the flickering world.
There are no lights on but the everlasting that shines
on the book open to where they all are at this moment,
old men and women wearing their working clothes,
hurrying their prayers before the day’s labor –
this one has to visit her sick husband at intensive care,
that one has to sign a contract for a settlement –
none of them daring to drive from home
to work in a direct line without a detour to God,
here, in this out of the way storage room
of yarmulkes and t’fillin and talissym, a space
so small each voice is distinguishable from the rest.