Wednesday, February 11, 2015

From the Notebook of J Michel

Salt and stones

I keep asking God for a sign,
To remember me as God remembered my ancestors.
I am suddenly unmoored,
disconcerted and discontent
from a brief and unsettling brush with the deeply sacred.
I fell into Sunday –a stone dropped into the ocean,
spent Monday and Tuesday wandering through the in-betweens
(Wednesday and Thursday got lost in subway tunnels).
I’m asking for a miracle, I suppose,
like the manna that materialized suddenly
in the nothingness above
and fell into their waiting hands,
I’m praying feverishly for love
to rain down upon my desolate soul.
And then I stop and ask myself really –
if God were to make water fountain from stones in song,
would I be grateful
or would my mouth continue to taste salt from the sea?

From the Notebook of J Michel

The same room

You and I
we are standing in the same house.
There are many rooms and somehow
we both chose the same.
You –who smell of comfort and apples –
are on one end.
And I –my face smeared with ash and honey –
am on the other, singing the bittersweet strains of a new day.
I am looking at the window,
Considering all the glorious possibilities of twilight,
But you –
You are staring at the walls,
Considering how they make this room
more of a prison than a sanctuary.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

From the Notebook of J Michel


In Egypt –
In the mud and impregnable narrowness
Of slavery
We dreamt of freedom.
Before Israel –
Discouraged by famine and plague and war
(the shocking tremors of impending disaster)
We dreamt of coming home again.
At night
Disconsolate from long silence and solitude
I dream that
You call me sh’chinati,

Calling me home again.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

From the Notebook of J Michel


My boots on the pavement are setting off
Mini shock waves that make me light headed.
Somehow leaving and entering (and the six years in between)
Have caused my disparate lives to come crashing full circle
Into me
And at night –when I lie awake waiting for sleep –
Death finds me wearing the head of a jackal

And the need of a man.

From the Notebook of J Michel

Home (a song cycle) 

In the desert
the sun rises over the palm-lined boulevards
and the giant silicon-breasted women
that linger over the starred avenues like watchful angels.

I awake inside an unfamiliar apartment
(another sleepless night).
I wipe away the restless dreams
that sealed my eyelids shut while the sun was absent
and put on skinny jeans and faux leather,
sunglasses to face the deceptive and mild
winter of southern California.

There are text messages and phone calls,
emails that I’m going to ignore;
I’m busy trying to capture the quaint and restless quiet
of Santa Monica before the hording masses
descend on the strip.
My rain boots are busy picking up
the bits of the city that go unnoticed
(especially during the long hiatus of the rains).

I walk and walk,
past the art deco mansions whose ghostly inhabitants
are too lonely to die.
I listen to my boots on the sidewalk;
the hum and whiz of traffic creates a perfect counterpoint
to the thrumming solitude pulsing with every beat of my heart.

As the traffic lights change without much warning
I see myself in sudden flashes
like the bedraggled pilgrims that came to the Temple
to sacrifice the harvest’s first fruits
and begged for God’s mercy.

It’s just, I want to belong with you
and I hated myself for being so honest
when we sat on the beach and I offered you my words
remembering a different temple.

I came here to find myself

and instead I found you.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

From the Notebook of J Michel


They say that we no longer offer sacrifices –
But how can that be true?

From miles around they flocked to our synagogue –
Hundreds of them –
Masses of hearts laden with vows sealed, kept, broken, un-conceived;
And as though it had been the inner courtyard itself
They filled the sanctuary,
Looking up at me with a child’s hopeful visage.
I wanted to weep because I wasn’t ready.

I felt too heavy with the weight of my own confession,
Terrified of passing into that long night alone.
Flashes of memory (vivid, horrid)
Reminded me that wings and feathers are sinew and blood;
They break, they mend, they are ephemeral.

In that sea of flesh and hopes I saw myself suddenly:
Alone, small, timid, aching,
Placed on the desolate bamah
Like a blemished lamb.
Twilight marked the beginning of the longest day of our year.
And into that sea of flesh and hopes you suddenly appeared.

I think you didn’t know it then –
In the flood of so many souls –
But your eyes spoke kindly to me.
Suddenly I remembered you –
You whose every aspect evokes chaos in me.
You, whose every word is a love I don’t dare fathom.
You stood in the back of the room and in that moment –
Thirty six angels and you were the brightest.

I don’t remember when, but I started singing;
I closed my eyes, feeling the weight of yours,
Daring for the first time to look into the murky mirror,
I remembered a time when we were ourselves.

Somehow I imagined myself placing the notes, one by one,
Hands trembling in front of the altar –lining them up like stones.
Sun on the horizon (spark and flame)
the stones burst into life.
Stay with me, I whispered into the gloom,
Always, you said.