Prayers from a dark room

א.     Gehinnom
If Hell is less fiery furnace
than a mirrored room
with all the lights
left on, with nowhere to hide
that what burns
is within us—all the guilt
and sorrow from
which we now can’t look
away, then let us
accept our faces
as they are; let us remember
that one word,
doloket, means both
in flames and full of light
and know our pain
can be a source of sight.
ב.     I am afraid to own a Body—I am afraid to own a Soul—
In Eden, garments of light sufficed, each human a lantern
lit from within, inextricable
from their ignition—but now, banished,
these dim skin suits. In our chests, though,
a firefly: its faint flares, its cold glow. Lonely lighthouses,
each of us. We blink, we beacon, we long to chorus, we wait
for a blaze in return, until—there!—allied, we pulse one
to the next; bind in divine
synchrony: for a moment, the whole
planet a field of fallen stars. And from this ensemble
bonfire, like smoke scorching from the narrows
of a throat, our fears. A cry
for not ownership but communion, a cry to be answered
with expanse
of air, of wind, of ruakh, that godbreath,
gentling in toward every torn thing, its breach
however meager—moving leaf into leaves, melding
body to soul, making of every opening a mouth and
setting us all to singing. Can you hear it?
A torch song for the kindred world, this fleeting one
we’re searching for.
ג.      Prayer for the Word Made Light
Bathe the window within us
in photo-sensitive silver. Let us
aperture. Let us dilate. What lasts
is what is found
by light. Negatives of the divine,
let us enter the stop bath
of the ordinary world. Where
we are most vulnerable, most
exposed, that’s what makes
the print. We become
what is burned into us: what
we open ourselves to.

First appeared in On the Seawall, commissioned by the Boutelle-Day Poetry Center at Smith College for the anthology The Map of Every Lilac Leaf: Poets Respond to the Smith College Museum of Art (Smith College Museum of Art)


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