All posts by joanmyles

About joanmyles

Poet. Writer. Check out my blog at www.JewniquelyMyself.com

Aspects of Starlight

There once were stars, held high within that black

expansive tapestry of nightly shade–

like compass points they guided her through bleak

uncertainty, and fearfulness allayed.

She found in them the ancient heroes viewed

adventuring, great beasts and men adorned

resplendently. Their noble traits imbued

her thoughts and gave her strength when she still mourned.

Eclipsed in adolescence, she had seen

the starlight, glowing, crystalline, spun lace

of spider’s thread, and striving to stay sane

reclaimed those aspects blindness can’t efface.

Illumined is her memory. There once

were stars, and for her there is recompense.

Happy Things

Bouncing a ball is a happy thing,

like flying a kite on a piece of string,

or watching the clouds without a care,

a breath of fresh air.

And you love me.

“BabyTalk” on your guitar,

Pacific waves on the sandy shore,

Mendelssohn’s Octette on the stereo,

daybreak glow.

And I love you.

Lullabye

These lyrics from a recent song J and I wrote, words of a parent at bedtime, are all too significant now. May every child remain safe in the loving care of his/her parents.

**

Starlight dances with the moon,

And I dance with you,

Lullabye-oo

Little child,

my little one.

Willow whispers to the lune,

And dreams wait for you,

Lullabye-oo,

Echoing this cradle tune,

Lullabye-oo

Like The Sun

Let me rise in the morning like the sun in the east,

let me rise in the morning like the sun

with my face bright with purpose for the work to be done.

Let me rise, let me rise, let me rise.

Wrap me in the hues of mitzvot,

pink and orange, all shades of blue.

May I be Your emissary

in everything I say and do.

Let me sing Your praise at noonday like the sun as it stands

at the zenith of intention, let me praise.

And with the innocence of childhood, may I seek Your ways.

Baruk atah Adonai.

Bending knees, I bow before You.

May I subjugate false pride

as I partner in Tzedakah

with my people,by Your side.

Let my heart be filled with mercy like the sun as it sets,

let my heart be filled with mercy like the sun

as it makes the journey easier for workers going home.

Like the sun,

Let me be

like the sun.

Black Hills

Paha Sapa

Hoop of the world,

where all four directions are gathered.

And I wait.

Wave smoke-signal doves

skyward across Turtle’s back.

Quiet breath.

wait,

wait.

Paha Sapa

And while night gathers

itself, with brilliant plumes,

settles down beside me,

I am content.

Put away waiting. Put

away fire, weave both

into vision-dreams.

Paha Sapa

Hoop of the world,

where all four directions are one.

Last Things First

Yesterday was bittersweet for me. You see, it was the last day of the school year at Temple Beth Sholom, which means our little congregational school takes a breather until September, then revs up once more. There’s only one thing…I won’t be teaching any more.

And while it was my choice to step back from teaching—handing off my Judaics class in September, and now my Hebrew class and Benai Mitzvah tutoring duties—I will certainly have a lot of time on my hands.

What to do, what to do?

Well, you can count on one thing: I won’t stop learning.

It’s my way, I guess, learn to teach, teach to learn…

And so it was when I started teaching Hebrew in 2005. I felt pretty overwhelmed. I had just had my own Bat Mitzvah the previous year, and there I was, teaching a group of sixth graders how to prepare for theirs. I needed to know more.

I enrolled in on-line graduate studies at Siegal College in Cleveland, Ohio, and spent two years reveling in Hebrew, Talmud, Liturgy and Jewish history. Not only did I become proficient (not fluent, mind you) in Hebrew, but I tasted the many flavors of Jewish learning, and deepened my own appreciation of Jewish Education. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to share what I had learned with my students at TBS.

My own studies enabled me to deepen what they learned about the themes of Jewish prayer as well as the Hebrew they used to express it. I spent a couple of years exploring Torah, the Prophets and Psalms with fifth graders; and delighted all the more in training kids for their Benai Mitzvah.

Then I noticed a change in my energy. It’s not so much fatigue as focus. Maybe this is what being 60 is. Maybe at some level I’m bored with teaching the same subject over and over. Maybe it’s simply time to do, to learn something new.

So here I am, ready and poised to begin again.

Blessings!

Poetry

Only crumbs in the cookie jar.

And the ice cream carton rests

Limp and exhausted in the trash.

April is nearly finished,

But poetry endures forever.

My children have grown up and moved out,

Their shouts and play are mere echos

Until grandchildren come bounding in.

But poetry lines my shelves,

Plays hide-n-seek

In the corners of my emotions,

Swirls me about in rhythmic strands,

Delights me in solitude.

Sweet on my tongue,

Bitterly questioning,

Sacred irreverence.

Yes, April is fading.

Poetry endures forever.

Memory

You know how it goes: you’re attending to everyday matters—readying yourself for work, shooing kids off to school, or planning the week’s dinner menus—and suddenly something pulls you away from the moment’s task to another time, a different you even, pulls you into a space you can’t resist inhabiting, and you have to pause and marvel. Such was the source of this piece for me, dear readers.

***

Memory

There’s something in those little packets of candy corn, in the waxy white-capped arrowhead of sugar that dissolves like childhood on my tongue in the back seat of an old Plymouth on its way home,

something about childhood dreams being interrupted by the sounds of sobbing, pleas for death, pleas for life, parents crying together in the night when no one was listening except me,

Something about silken pajamas sent to me from Japan, and my paralyzed limbs being unable to carry me to Johnny’s seventh birthday party, my father trekking through snowdrifts to deliver me there,

something about seeing Johnny’s beard fifteen years later, his mother’s pride as she visited her dead son, his father’s troubling anger at the drunk driver who killed him,

something about sleeping sickness that made my mother tuck me in beneath resentment mid-day, while Johnny and the rest played in the pool and rode bikes laughing,

Something about my kindergarten class’s construction paper cards coaxing me back to wellness, especially the one from Larry Lux which I cherished like a ghoulish wound three years past his passing, his mother and my mother meeting at Wednesday evening Novenas to mingle prayers like ascending smoke,

something about paralysis and material existence, melting away, like candy corn, sweet glow upon my lips, syrup upon my tongue, without substance or permanence.

Something about the sunlight and warmth of what survives, beyond time and memory, beyond loss and sorrow, beyond childhood.

Cycles in Time

What better way to continue our journey through the Jewish festivals and also celebrate April as Poetry month than to share with you dear readers my poem about Jewish festivals!

***

Cycles in Time

Bring forth the barley which God does provide

For the oxen we work and the donkeys we ride.

We once were mere beasts to Pharoah the king;

And now on this Pesech, we sing!

Bring forth the wheat, for God does provide

Bread for our table, our young satisfied

In Torah’s Love-letter we learn life’s meaning;

And now on Shavuot, we sing.

Bring forth the fruit, for God does provide

The means for our progress, a shield and a guide.

Though frail we can know Him, despite wandering;

And now every Sukkot, we sing.

Through many and many years tragic and long

We Jews have been yearning to voice our own song.

Each new generation has something to bring–

So take a deep breath now, and sing!

At The Table

Every year, Jews around the world gather with family members and friends to celebrate liberation—liberation of the Jews from Egyptian slavery in days past, and liberation of all people in days to come. With the Hagada to guide us, we make our way through various texts, topics and discussions as we wrestle with the complexities of human nature. One section asks that we consider 4 types of children: the wise child who is eager to learn everything possible about our tradition; the so-called wicked or alienated child who challenges everything; the simple child whose questions are direct and perhaps one-dimensional; and the child who is too confused, or maybe to hesitant, to ask any questions at all. The Hagada also reminds us that at one time or another, we all embody each of these qualities, ourselves.

***

At The Table

We raise our glasses,

wash our hands ceremoniously,

dipp our greens and boiled eggs in salt water.

We read,

and remember,

and sing songs of praise.

In the middle of it all,

we eat—

matzah ball soup and fish loaf for tradition,

pomegranate chicken and parsley potatos for today.

And this morning

you are the wicked child,

the son who asks, “What does this mean to you?”

“You are not unredeemable,” I assure,

“There is always a place at the table for you.”

And you hug me tight,

my “bad” boy,

who never stops questioning the world,

the reason for pain and war and strife,

who never stops loving me.