What The Water Took: 7 Torahs And A Piano by Miriam Sagan

I wrote this during a visit to New Orleans, about five years after Katrina. I’m posting it here, for the Gulf in general. Also, in the strange synergy that poems sometimes have, Rosh Hashana is approaching. And my Beit Midrash group is starting up for fall–soon to be discussing Jacob wrestling.

What The Water Took: 7 Torahs And A Piano

torah of morning
of noon
of dusk
of midnight
of moonrise
of daytime gibbous moon
flood water

torah of terror
of anarchy
of forgiveness
fire in the water
a dog
a child
bent street signs

torah which unrolls
the story of Noah
an ark
a dove
a raven
streets as rivers
leviathan

a house
your house
a house
caught in a tree
the army corps of engineers
a pumping station
a levee

torah of glass bottles
dangling blue glass hands
a message
SOS
hope
despair
a twisted menorah

torah of brass bands
coronets and horns
twisted shofar
blowing not air
but water
clarinet set with rubies now mute
torah of the broken flute

torah of Jacob
wrestling with the angel
who cheats to win
God’s lie, the rainbow sign
(no more water
the fire next time)
words float away

and the piano of glass
of sand, strings plucked
by fish
how the water took even
our idea of land
and in drowned sleep
spirit moved on the face of this deep.

I Must Go to the Creek Again by Michael G. Smith

I must go to the Creek again.
Again, I will ask only for silence
to hear the riffs
drifting by. Vagrant
and wanderer, the Creek is
captive and conveyor of storm,
its story and futurestory
the tree that falls
into it from its
eroding banks. How many
years to tumbledrum a grain
of sand a mile along its bed?
Alone responsible,
and not, the Creek brings
song to all it can,
Chickaree’s scold
of my innocence
(this a trespass),
eddies in the round rejoining
beginning, voice born into it.
And must I pray? I ask
how to give words to a time
stopped, the Creek creeking.

how many times have I walked across a field in America by Miriam Sagan

how many times have I walked across a field in America

leaving a green place behind

rows of cabbages and tiger lilies
purslane you might eat, but only very new
blue chicory

good-bye to you I loved and you I didn’t

back to the city

and a million pairs of shoes

and a million pairs of strangers’ eyes

in this moment I might be twelve or sixty

I promise myself I’ll return

I’ll make it right

next time, I’ll love all of you

blue chicory

Which Sang Of Butterflies Deeply by Judy Katz-Levine

Which Sang Of Butterflies Deeply

There was thunder, a downpour.
My friends are sleeping,
maybe a dream like a candle
with the face and eyelids of
someone ill from cancer.

We wonder if we will be next,
the room here is graced with
masks and prints of
Kandinsky and an abstract of a
marsh with green rushes long water lilies

friends – a tract of sea
on expanse of white sand

There is a native American dream
catcher on the wall, though
my dreams have been stolen,
feather mask watching mute
as rain before it rains
There’s a doll, a puppet from
Thailand.

We talked about a woman who
died too young, after her words
were buried forever, and the angels
and the angles of the face of my friend
with dark grays in planes from the late
night hair just white with strands of gray
and black, it was beautiful
when she was tired after
a meeting to free prisoners.

Her husband was falling asleep
after the concert and the cello
which sang of butterflies deeply
flying and infinitely small and huge
butterflies

I am one who can fly
in a waking dream. I can fly
to a lover, kiss her in invisible
places, nipples
of dogwood flower, no one knows.
They would think something,
they would think something else,

I am told my best friend is
a symphony, with thighs
of lilac that I brush
in the divine light
across her lips.

I am one who can laugh
in the bathroom, when she comes to tell me
I am beautiful
in the shower of flute cadenzas
a blues for sure
with the words “honey”
in the invisible light of flight
that has no name

The lamp is singing in the great room
when I want to slip into azure spaces
in sleepless fields.

Judy Katz-Levine