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Armed with seven names
for G-d I felt like a fraud
correcting the spelling in my note

at the Western Wall. Praying
my few Hebrew phrases
(supplied by Lubavitchers).

Your mother danced
(in the women’s section);
I felt like a hole in the wall.

But a few days earlier, when we’d landed,
when the bus crested the bell
of the hill, the bell

of my blood rang. Then
I thought I’d wake in time
to join your mother

for that first sunrise.
I dreamed of faces
upturned in Jerusalem;

our gun-toting medic
joked about his face, twisted
to a blizzard

after a week of rain
precipitating our arrival,
night already settled,

and then the rain,
oh yes, the Galilee Sea, oh,
the Kinneret, stray birds turning

inward, centered, mocking the water
reflecting the light
all night lying awake

on the stuttering Galilee.
I thought you’d be born
in Jerusalem.

I don’t blame you for that.
This morning you marched
the perimeter of our courtyard patio,

an unseasonably pleasant day
in April, in Houston,
where your mother has a good job

and I have a good job and we both
speak the language, blowing
on your purple plastic shofar

and muttering to yourself,
“Let my people go.”
We had driven roads there

of destroyed cities,
along vineyard land fallow
for hundreds of years, or so

I’d been told.
Don’t ask me the wishes
I crumpled and stuffed

into stone. And then
we were no longer
at the ancient temple.

What we miss
is always that
quick. Unroll me,

——–—give me your blessing.



Joshua Gottlieb-Miller’s poetry appears in Brooklyn Rail, Berru Poetry Series, Anmly, and elsewhere. Previously he has been a Tent Fellow at the Yiddish Book Center. His forthcoming debut collection, The Art of Bagging, won Conduit’s Marystina Santiestevan First Book Prize.




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