Rosh Hashanah Morning Torah Reading, Genesis 18:16-28
Speaking Truth to Power
Yes to the Way the Grass
"Yes to the Way the Grass," first published in Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices Poem written by Wendy Drexler, used with permission from the author needs the soil, and the soil needs the grass, the way the candle needs the wick and the wick, the candle. Yes to the lion and the buck, they need one another. Yes to the ocean that needs a shore for its waves. Yes to the cymbals that need violins, and violins for needing the thirty-two winds it takes to make a compass rose. Yes to each petal that needs the other forty petals to be a rose, and to the rose for letting them die for the new bud. Yes to the stars, closing their eyes at the same time to darkness, yes to the rain in the valley of thirst. Yes to the time we live with because we’ve got to live with it, yes to loving better, to coming in from anywhere.
The Wind Will Dance With Me
Poem written by Wendy Drexler, used with permission from the author Tell me, is the caterpillar afraid when it spins itself into a crysalis? When it squeezes out of its own skin? And what isn’t the work of transformation? So much is beyond my understanding— smooth as wind, prickly, briefly sheltered before the scatter, rotting, returning, a chanting unanswered, long and low from its dark pulpit. I’m thin-skinned, undone by the humming of what-could-be—buoyant with decay, a tendrilled, curly creeper. I speak, silver-sheened, in tongues. Polish myself on stones.
Telescope on Brooklyn Sidewalk
"Telescope on Brooklyn Sidewalk," first published in The Atlanta Review Poem written by Wendy Drexler, used with permission from the author It was dusk, the street corner buzzing like a hive, a telescope there on the sidewalk, its giant eye tilted toward the moon. I stopped, marveling, moved closer—a man gestured with his open palm, have a look. I lowered my eye to the lens, which was as private as a peephole, peered down the tunnel, risqué and mine alone to enter. I recoiled at the blast—there were craters close enough to swallow me, and where the waxing crescent curved away it was like walking into the valley of the shadow of death, and the whiteness, stark and scarred, was blinding, a comfortless cold, all that light coming from the other side of the world where the sun hadn’t yet set. That moon, I tell you, was dazzling and terrifying and desolate—not one tree or garden or fountain, no bees or tigers or bodegas selling milk or cracked concrete cooling into the night, no cars or car radios blasting, no mercury or corroded lead pipes or any of the other things that are killing us or being killed by us— my god, that moon filled my every pore and I dove into silence. And when I ripped away my eye, I was jolted by the shudder of air around my shoulders, people swirled by, every shade of flesh—pink, nutmeg, chocolate—and I was caught like a fastball in the din and swell of strangers I was back among— my intimates, my very own sweet kind.
All the Hours the Night Has Left
Poem written by Wendy Drexler, used with permission from the author What I’ll never have is close to, or nearly equals, what I’ve had. I find myself at equilibrium, which may last only a day—the mayfly’s brief happiness—no way of knowing if this is happiness or merely the acknowledgment of where I am, skittering and buzzing and looking all around, the pond by now thick with my own kind, the water the halfway shade of tea light and twig— it no longer matters I can’t see clear like the elephant god, remover of obstacles. The first time I heard a concerto, and someone told me what makes a key minor is the lowered third, I listened to the sorrow for myself. At last I can name it: brokenness, beauty, the way through.
Poem written by Wendy Drexler, used with permission from the author His black-shellacked body lay belly up on the basement floor, everything in him already decided, the huge husk of him— three sections knuckle-coupled like train cars: the thorax scribed with scarabs, compact as a flower bulb, the abdomen hinged to his tiny head, and inside that, the minuscule brain that mounted his little music, day and night issued meek and fierce instructions to himself in his dark city. And refused what? And raced where? Sought what solace scuttling? And did he notice or not the tepid light squinting through smeared windows? Did he brace his legs against the spin of the washer’s thrum? Nothing more for him but this one hard look—to memorize the six matched dancers of his legs, each curving toward its partner in a series of jointed etceteras all the way out to the hooks, barbed, and beyond, the ardent tips that almost touch.
"Hydrangeas," first published in Before There Was Before (Iris Press, 2017) Poem written by Wendy Drexler, used with permission from the author Pour themselves over the fence like buckets of sun-blazed cream. I brush a fleshy petal, wondering how the branches can bear them, the way the blossoms thrust aside the leaves in their impatience to descend, all bustle and pomp like the girls who snubbed me in high school. Yet when the light drains into dusk, the blossoms ease into a watery-blue tenderness, willing to slur boundaries, blend into branch, blend into bush. Becoming devotion. And look, already they are wilting a little—they will keep on wilting, there will be no stopping them. More gently now than before, I brush two petals with the tips of my fingers to lend courage as they tuck themselves back in— they, too, not yet entirely lost in the darkness.
Light R48 on the Storrow Drive Underpass
"Light R48 on the Storrow Drive Underpass," first published in Cider Press Review Poem written by Wendy Drexler, used with permission from the author Praise the beam of that light that slices through late afternoon traffic. and the faint scatter of that light on the roadbed graded to a gradual bend. Praise the gradual bend. And praise the worker who climbed up the catwalk at 4 a.m. to tape the stencil, R48, high on the tunnel wall. spray-painting R48 in rusty red, and then mounted the back plate, connecting the cable to the power source, completing what is every day taken for granted, among all the hours, perishable, yet to come.
A Cricket Has Been Calling
"A Cricket Has Been Calling," first published in Common Ground Poem written by Wendy Drexler, used with permission from the author As I wash my cereal bowl, my blue coffee cup, as I fill the feeder, a cricket has been calling. I listen for some inflection, an iamb, I am, I am, any pattern or meaning, but there is none, or nearly none— just the scrape of wings, emphatic, vaguely duple-time, insistent, tireless. Or else a pause, and I think, ah then, something is settled, for once. But the cricket resumes, an engine unrequited, an equation to be solved, growing large as a sound can grow—and I think of the woman crying at the bus stop this morning, and her children, grieving for their father, who is never coming back, and I wish I could find a place for that cricket to rest, a place to rest for everyone who calls and shakes and has not been consoled.
Closing the Loop on the Year
"Closing the Loop of the Year," first published in The Hudson Review Poem written by Wendy Drexler, used with permission from the author Snow clings to shingles. I riffle December pages of my calendar—coffee-stained days, bills paid, to-dos and past dues, the late tracery of time spent, nearly forgotten. I peel the cellophane from the new calendar, turn the blank pages. I want another year, oh yes. And another after that. I want tenacity like the dogwood outside my window, preparing to stay, bare branches huddled hard against the side of the house— the one shoot that races straight up from the middle of the crown— brown umbel with its parasol of stalks, each stalk capped with a pink bud ready to be struck into white stars, on whose account, by May, the whole branch will tremble.