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Yom Kippur

The sunlight didn’t break, we are broken, the word ‘broken’ is broken.
~ Yehuda Amichai


Today, everything hurts, and I’m as close to god as I’ll ever come,
or want to be.  I try to forgive myself, fist knocking at the chest,

a door that forgot how to open.  The prayer book’s spine
against my palms, I sing loudly to drown out the dandruff

flaked on the suit in the next row, sing as if  I do believe,
as if  the fervor had not been rocked out of me by the Cantor

whose polioed leg rubbed into me as we sang together in front
of the high holiday congregation, as if I were still his student

and he could still grip my waist –   always his smell of yellow breath
and wear. That was when the old men said girls can never be

rabbis, girls can’t stand  before the torah. And now in the synagogue,
familiar as the couch leg that catches my pinky toe when I walk past it,

I think of the woman asleep in the window well on my block, blonde
wisping out of a hoodie, sneakers on the sidewalk like slippers by a bed.

No, she’d said, I’m not hungry.  I come to this sanctuary from that chill,
wonder if this is the night, the last time, I’ll try to  get that door open.



Janlori Goldman teaches in the Narrative Medic ine Program at Columbia University. She co-edited For the Crowns of Your Heads: Poems for Haiti, and hosts the Huge Shoes salon. www.hugeshoes.org.