Saturday, October 08, 2005

A Poem from Liz

WITHOUT

Adas Israel Synagogue, Washington, DC

The old gym bag–bathing suit, cap,
shampoo, razor–as ready to go
as it was four years back, autumn,
the onset of illness, the last time I used it.

Today it became the mikvah bag,
bathing suit and cap superfluous,
but shampoo and razor essential
for the priming, the cleansing,
the ritual before the ritual bath.
This Rosh Hashanah, we would bathe for rebirth.

Lynn was there, without her breasts.
Jan was there, without her colon.
Barbara was there, soon to be without
her thyroid. All of me was there,
but each cell without its engine of energy.

Still, I dipped three times.
Nothing happened.
Floated face down, floated face up.
Soon the prayer–my only one–emerged:
“Help me, please.”
Then a need, instinctual,

to dip three times more.
There was a time of sobbing–
a time of floating,
and a time, finally,
of returning

to the self I left behind.
Not much of a pool, that mikvah,
yet I stroked, grabbed the wall,
turned, stroked, grabbed the wall,
returned. Oh, miracle of understanding,

again instinctual,
to dip three times more–
a third and final act of immersion–
before rising from the waters,
swimmer that I always was,
tired as if old,
wet and dripping as if new.

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