Sunday, November 8, 2015

From the Notebook of J Michel

An unknowable name

The revelation of darkness was pressure surrounding me.
I began to weep like a child,
understanding that her searing touch
contains within it all that is unknown and unknowable.
The darkness has a name, unspeakable.
She is black on white, the fullness of dark, the empty
void waiting to be expressed in lights,
the mother for whom I wept
the night I sat in a tiny synagogue in Flatbush,
listening to the men
through holes in a divider,
vocalizing what I could not.
In silence, I confessed
as the darkness loomed:
God, I don’t know what you are.
And then, from the corners of the Universe
came a voice so heavy
with compassion it broke my heart.
“It’s alright. You don’t have to

to love me.”

Thursday, October 22, 2015

From the Notebook of J Michel

A revision of a previously published poem (the original was posted August 22nd, 2014)


Here you stand, now, breathless and trembling at the foot
Where the pool ends, eternity begins,
And we yearn for God’s blessing.
This journey unfolds as we breathe in and out,
Counting the moments of soul encapsulated within these confines –
Watching, bearing witness, receiving the imprint
Of a thousand lives until we transform.
What has brought us here? Listen.
Into the depths where it seems impossible for light to reach –
Listen –
Across distances our thoughts can barely fathom
(and through our dreams) for the voice without end.
It is the smallest of lights in that immense darkness;
When we draw closer
It is to remember that those lights are carried by the ones who love us,
The ones in whom our souls find favor,
The ones for whom our eyes shine
Because love flames, sparks and does not consume.
This threshold is so vast
We ask ourselves how –
how can we hope to carry the lights across?
I guess the answer is that we carry nothing;
when the ineffable darkness is inside us
there’s no need.
This threshold is immense –
As though you’d jump,
and as soon as your toes leave the earth
It becomes a chasm.
I guess is the only way to cross is to remember that,
Though fear creates the threshold, it is not for us to keep;
Close our eyes and allow gratitude
To sprout our wings (long dormant)
From between our shoulder blades.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

From the Notebook of J Michel

All I have to give you 

Dear one,
You remind me of a daughter
I used to have when I wore a different face,
And I love you fiercely –
You cannot even know.
When I see you smile I remember
Standing at Sinai
(when the secret name was uttered among us)
and I feel the need –like the air I breathe –
to teach you what I remember.
When I hear you laugh
I know that life will lead you
To narrow places
And I cannot bear the thought of your suffering.
Because, dear one, the only thing I have
To give you are my words
(perhaps a kiss, maybe a hug).
Remember them, little dove,
Keep them with you;
When it comes time for you
To leave Egypt they will be
The only thing light enough to carry.
Remember what I teach you, my love;
It’s not so much that God commands
As I just can’t help this impulse.
My only desire is that God
Will remember the voice of your soul –
When all is dust and decay –
And you will rise with the wings of eagles,
Utter my name into the chaos,
And glide over turbulent waters.

From the Notebook of J Michel


Please understand
I only shut you out because I was afraid.
The New Year always catches me by surprise
and I am reluctant.
Since I was a child I’ve been bitter –certain
that death meant extinguishment
by virtue of your nature.
Do you know how I grieved?
Sitting in a house haunted
by the absence of light.
Of course you do –
you were sitting there beside me
as I shed each precious tear.
Finally, into the silence
you leaned in close and whispered in my ear:
Weep if you must,
but know that I work in mysterious ways.
Let me bloom my flowers onto thorns;
Let the dawn awake before the sun rises.
Listen to my voice
and when we sing in dissonance
(which is bound to happen because
you are constantly breathing)
Remember that I love you
enough to resolve it.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

From the Notebook of J Michel

Elul Day 13 (Mountaintops) 

I thought I was standing on mountaintops,
Surveying the hopeful and inviting terrain below.
I was ready –I’d thought you lead me here because you were, too.
I guess I just wasn’t close enough;
I guess the pomegranates and grape clusters
Only seemed giant in my naivety.
I guess I wasn’t close enough.
Or maybe I was too close;
I turned to you, asking for comfort,
You stood silent.
I consulted you, begging for encouragement,
But you stood silent.
I shouted, cursed God and fate;
You told me this was the way things had to be.
So I, in a heroic effort to conserve meager resources,
Chose not to fight you.
I told myself I have bigger battles to engage –
Though I can’t help thinking
That we’re both in the same war.
Not today.
Today will not be the day
That we fight to enter the Promised Land.