Through the Mouth of the King: An Interpretive Unetaneh Tokef

I close my eyes and see a throne
Face too bright to glance at
Voice too loud to hear
I look again—whose face is that, my own?
He calls and I approach
See the king writing in a book
He studies each word, then applies his waxy seal
Beckons to me
I hold out my hand, take the book
A melody swirls around me
Melting wax as the book falls open
My own voice singing, through the mouth of the king.

Thunder shakes the palace—was it my voice?
I read, I weep, I blink
I hear a sob—the king!
My eyes are distracted by light
reflecting off shackles on the arms of the king.
Free me!—was that my voice, or his?

The page is blank again.
Write! calls the king.
But what shall I write?
Write what will happen.
But what will happen?
I begin to write, uncertainly—stop, start
The king’s shackles grow tighter, looser, tighter…

I write: Teshuvah, Tefillah, Tzedakah—Repentance, prayer, justice

And the king breaks free

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