Elul Unbound: Poetry

Each Monday of Elul, we release a poem related to our weekly theme. They can be found below.

Week 1 (Introspection):

Coming Up On September
By Marge Piercy

White Butterfly.JPG

White butterflies, with single
black finger paint eyes on their wings
dart and settle, eddy and mate
over the green tangle of vines
in Labor Day morning steam.

The year grinds into ripeness and rot,
grapes darkening, pears yellowing,
the first Virginia creeper twining crimson,
the grasses, dry straw to burn.

Stone Pot.png

The New Year rises, beckoning
across the umbrellas on the sand.
I begin to reconsider my life.
What is the yield of my impatience?
What is the fruit of my resolve?

I turn from frantic white dance
over the jungle of productivity
and slowly a niggun** slides,
cold water down my throat.
I rest on a leaf spotted red.

Now is the time to let the mind
search backwards like the raven
loosed to see what can feed us.
Now, the time to cast the mind forward
to chart an aerial map of the months.

The New Year is a great door
that stands across the evening
and Yom Kippur is the second door.
Between them are song and silence,
stone and clay pot to be filled from within myself.

I will find there both ripeness and rot,
what I have done and undone,
what I must let go with the waning days
and what I must take in.
With the last tomatoes, we harvest the fruit of our lives.

**A niggun is a melody that can act like a prayer or meditation. Most niggunim (plural of the word niggun) are wordless, but some have words. Click here to listen to a Niggun that Wendie wrote, and identified as a perfect fit for this second day of Elul.

Questions for Reflection:

1) What word or phrase jumps out at you in this poem? Why do you think that it does?
2) What is the "yield of your impatience?" What is the "fruit of your resolve?" What is your "ripeness and your rot" from this past year? What are the "fruits of your life" from this past year?

Week Two: The Flow of Time

A Pace Like That
By Yehuda Amichai

Image Credit: Cross Common Nursery

Image Credit: Cross Common Nursery

I’m looking at the lemon tree I planted.
A year ago. I’d need a different pace, a slower one,
to observe the growth of its branches, its leaves as they open.
I want a pace like that.
Not like reading a newspaper
but the way a child learns to read,
or the way you quietly decipher the inscription
on an ancient tombstone.

Image Credit: HuffingtonPost.co.uk

Image Credit: HuffingtonPost.co.uk

And what a Torah scroll takes an entire year to do
as it rolls its way from Genesis to the death of Moses,
I do each day in haste
on in sleepless nights, rolling over from side to side.

The longer you live, the more people there are
who comment on your actions. Like a worker
in a manhole: at the opening above him
people stand around giving free advice
and yelling instructions,
but he’s all alone down there in his depths.

Questions for Reflection:

1) As you read the poem through, what word or phrase jumps out at you? What does it communicate to you?
2) Where in your life do you need a different, slower pace?
3) Do you want to create a "manhole" for yourself, so you are removed from the advice of others? What would you take with you into such a manhole?

Week 3: Love and Relationships

You and I
By Leonard Nimoy

Image Credit: New York Times

Image Credit: New York Times

Image Credit: Rebel Circus

Image Credit: Rebel Circus

I am not immortal.
Whatever I put off for later
may never be.
Whoever doesn’t know now
that I love them
may never know.
I have killed time.
I have squandered it.
I have lost days…weeks…
as a man of unlimited wealth
might drop coins on the street
and never look back.
I know now, that there will be an end,
a limit.
But there is time
valuable and precious time
to walk,
Time to touch,
To warm the child
who is cold and lonely.
There is time to love
I promise myself…
I will.
I am
I am ready
I am ready to give
I am ready to give and to receive
I am ready to give and to receive love.

Questions for Reflection:

1) What is one thing you can do to be more loving to yourself this coming year?
2) What is one thing you can do to show more love to someone dear to you this coming year?

Week 4: Forgiveness

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 67
By Lao Tzu (translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Some say that my teaching is nonsense.
Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep.

I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.

Questions for Reflection:

1) Simplicity. Patience. Compassion. Are those three treasures truly all that we need? Why or why not?
2) What's an example of something nonsensical, in the world, that "makes perfect sense" to you?