In fall, the Jewish holidays come—first Rosh Hashana, the new year, and then Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. In between the two are the 10 days of awe, a time when a person is supposed to reflect on her life, making amends to anyone she’s offended or hurt on the basis that praying together can help us come into alignment with the holy, but we can only make amends with other people by making amends with other people. This poem, which I wrote last year, speaks to my yearning to come to a clean and open place during the Days of Awe. I offer it on the premise that, whether we’re Jewish or not, we all benefit from forgiving others and, most of all, forgiving ourselves.
Entering the Days of Awe
Let us walk unfettered into these days
unfurling in the sun, wide fields of old grasses
bracketed by sunflowers and pebbles.
Let us step into the lapis sky that fastens itself
to the driveway, the sidewalk, the worn leaves
of dying summer under new leaf fall.
Let us give up the wasteful thinking,
the 2 a.m. anxieties over what cannot be changed,
the waking with a gasp. Let us stand in the morning,
the new chill of the air clearing the discards of time,
fear, reaching too hard or not enough.
Let the wrongs be made right. Let forgiveness
overtake the words we hear and pray, the stories
we’ve made and tilted. Let us remember this dreaming song
from all our beloveds long gone or just over the bend,
each note engraved with lost lands, singing
of how good it is when we dwell together.
Let the peripheral vision in the days of awe show us
the world, the first seeing of the heart, the last pulse
of those we love who travel with us. Let the wind shake
the trees, the tattered leaves shine, the last butterflies
flash their orange, the first dark blue of night
open into a panorama of past and present light
on its way to us all.
Let the next breath we take inscribe us in the book of life.
Let the next breath you give welcome us home.