Early Memories of Singing in Shul
The rabbi asks all mourners to stand
for the kaddish. The man beside me
rises and begins to weep as he sings.
He wobbles, a yoked ox
near collapse, but still pulling.
Three rows behind me I hear my godfather,
a celebrated heart doctor, his singing voice
as rich as the burgundy velvet
that wraps the Torah. Already twice this year
he’s been convicted of insurance fraud.
The pewter cup is filled with wine
purple as my dead grandpa’s lips.
The rabbi blesses it and I drink
to bottom. Within seconds I rush outside
and vomit into the grass. In all prayers since
I hear an echo of cackled laughter.
The Torah’s lifted from the wooden ark
and shown to us like conjured fire.
Everyone rises and sings
with a reckless, flame-lit joy.
After that, how could I want anything
but the ability to write a book?