Bereshis Bara Elohim

                                                                                                             The Beginning Created God

by Leslie Grollman

                                                                During the Amidah, our one-on-one with God

My prayer shawl —
         still warm from grounding my shoulders,
         from shouldering my wishlists —
linns from my head like a dome tent.

I shut my eyes, shun the world.

Under this tarp of striped wool,
                                          the look-alike fringes
hang like creatures beholding from corners.

I drift      voice first
           into these drops of holy
                                     molded into our mystery.
My mind        a dislocated weight, sunk to seabed.

I rock and sway a silent niggun.
In this asking-time (please erase the word ‘deserve’:
  my mother, she…);
       in thanks-giving-time (I am full today),
in kvetching-time (what-the-fuck);
   some fist-upward-time (why are You not parting seas);  
in the hush-time (                                                 )

                                                                          — sublime rupture.

My eyes un-squint.   My body hints of orphaned.

I taste the childhood of honey
How my father taught me the Hebrew alphabet,
the sweetness of it. He’d calligraphy the letters onto a page,
drizzle one drop of honey onto each,
then lead my forefinger to each drop.
I’d imitate his pronunciation as he led
my finger to my tongue.

I notice one tzitzit hangs lower than the rest
as if troubled by my clamor.

My body winds in on itself, mirroring
   but nothing like, the holy

             A scrim’s width between my halves,
somewhere in my stunted spine,
          barely held up by legs,
mirroring but not
       the Etz Chayim, Tree of Life.

Is what I ask of You a bid
to craft the world in my image?


Leslie Grollman’s work appears in Cordite Poetry Review, bath magg, Streetcake, BeZine, Sweet Lit, Ellipsis Zine, Moist Poetry Journal, Yolk, Spoken Word Scratch Night, Writing Utopia 2020 Anthology, The Selkie, Thimble, Nailed, Pathos, elsewhere, and is forthcoming in Pidgeonholes. Leslie was shortlisted for The Surreal and Strange: Prose Poetry Competition 2022. She was chosen to be a reader for an Octopus Books’ reading period. Leslie earned an MSc Creative Writing, Poetry, with Distinction, from the University of Edinburgh in 2020 at age 70.

Image: menachem weinreb

Image description: “Jewish prayer shawl with prayer book with passage to remember the dead”