Tag Archives: grief

Worms in the Flour

by Jacqueline Jules (Arlington, VA)

The sweet smell of baking bread
widened your nostrils, then your eyes.
“A girl who bakes bread!” Your face,
a nomad finding water in the desert.
It was the seventies.
Men were afraid to open doors, afraid not to.
You were ten years my senior.
“Challah,” I corrected. “Sabbath bread.
An expression of faith.”

When time allows and mood demands,
I still set out bowls and measuring cups,
yeast, eggs, and flour on the kitchen counter,
determined to knead a sticky white mess
into something smooth and solid.
It’s a noisy process. The first time
you heard the sound
of something being punched and beaten,
you ran to the kitchen to watch.

It requires more strength now,
in the house alone.
Finding the cabinet empty of yeast,
I can’t ask you to put down the newspaper
and run to the store. I almost quit today—
opening the flour tin, finding worms.

But there were empty bowls
on the counter, waiting
beside sugar, yeast, and eggs.
They taunted me, dared me to continue.
I grabbed my coat and keys.

Not long after, I came back
with new flour, ready
to start over.

Jacqueline Jules is the author of many Jewish children’s books including The Hardest Word, Once Upon a Shabbos, Sarah Laughs, Miriam in the Desert, and Goodnight Sh’ma. Visit her at www.jacquelinejules.com

“Worms in the Flour” appears in Stronger Than Cleopatra, a collection of poems about going forward in the face of loss. It is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author. For more more about the book, visit: 

http://www.booknook-eljpublications.com/store/p4/Stronger_Than_Cleopatra.html

 

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Filed under American Jewry, Family history, Jewish identity, poetry

Crash Victim’s Father

by Mel Glenn (Brooklyn, NY)

“God is punishing me for my sins.”
Oh, father, are you sure?
Or is this your valiant attempt
to understand what cannot be understood?
A daughter is dead, so is a son,
as is, tragically, an unborn child.
A whole religious community now mourns.
What evidence, I ask, suggests it was your fault?
You load your shoulders with the pain,
to make sense out of the senseless,
but why carry even more sorrow by contributing
the additional burden of perceived sin?
Surely, God in His wisdom does not wish to pile on.
It would seem He has better things to address -
why the accident in the first place? -
as He dons His Old Testament robes of wrath.
Nothing can make the night day for you,
but what value is it to extend the darkness,
by throwing a believed culpability into
the incomprehensible celestial mix?

The author of twelve books for young adults, Mel Glenn has lived nearly all his life in Brooklyn, NY, where he taught English at A. Lincoln High School for thirty-one years.  Lately, he’s been writing poetry, and you can find his most recent poems in a new YA anthology, This Family Is Driving Me Crazy,  edited by M. Jerry Weiss.

If you’d like to learn more about his work, visit: http://www.melglenn.com/

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Filed under American Jewry, poetry

Remembrance of a Shabbos Past

by Robert J. Avrech (Los Angeles, CA)

The arrival of Shabbos is a time of awe and delight for observant Jews.

The Kabbalists in Safed used to dress in white and singing with joy they would greet the Sabbath Bride in the mountains.

Here in Pico Robertson, Los Angeles, we too greet the Sabbath albeit with a less romantic gesture.

The Sabbath is a time when the ordinary burdens of the work week are left behind and time becomes consecrated. Every man becomes a king in his home and every woman a queen.

When our son Ariel ZT’L was alive he would spend a great deal of time preparing for Shabbos. He put on his best suit and hat saying: Would you meet with a president or a king dressed as a schlump?

It was something of a running joke in the house that Ariel, no matter how early he started, was almost always late. By the time I was ready to go to shul, Ariel was still awkwardly struggling with his cuff links or wrestling with his tie, trying to get the knot just right. Ariel moved slowly. His weakened lungs made it so, but it was also the pace at which he moved through life. Slow, deliberate, thoughtful. Ariel moved like a man from another century. None of the frenzied 21st century movements for Ariel. No doubt he would have been entirely comfortable in medieval Europe, in the Yeshivas of Provence, studying in the house of Rashi. That was his temprament.

Ariel and I walked to shul together, three short blocks that are as familiar to me as the architecture of my wife’s lovely face. We waved to the other men on their way to the various shuls. We said hello to strangers walking their dogs. Sometimes we talked, but often there was a companionable silence. Ariel was preparing to pray, adjusting his state of mind for a holy dialogue.

In shul, Ariel was often asked to daven for the minyan. He had a beautiful voice and his pronunciation of the Hebrew was perfect. Often, Ariel was the last to finish davening. Here too, he took his time. He spoke to God: a true I and Thou relationship. Frequently, I had to wait for him to finish davening. Everyone else was already gone, on their way home, but Ariel was still shuckling, eyes closed, totally unaware that we were the only two left in shul. I sat and watched him daven and said to myself: How did this saintly young man spring from my loins? How did this happen for I am less than good, far from pious, never close to God; just another struggling schlemiel.

I watched Ariel daven in the empty shul and I remembered when I was a child in Brooklyn, in shul with my father. I gazed in awe as he davened. I felt that here was a man in touch with something I could not even glimpse.

And so, I am watching Ariel, I am watching my father, past and present merging and I say to myself: Let this moment never end Let this moment never end Let this moment never end…

Robert J. Avrech is a screenwriter and producer in Los Angeles. Among his best-known films is the thriller, Body Double, directed by Brian DePalma. His script for the modern Hasidic tale, A Stranger Among Us, directed by Sidney Lumet, was an official selection of the Cannes film festival. Robert won the Emmy award for his adaptation of the young adult classic, The Devil’s Arithmetic, starring Kirsten Dunst and Brittany Murphy. Robert was also nominated for The Humanitas Award for Within These Walls, starring Ellen Burstyn and Laura Dern. Robert writes an award winning blog, Seraphic Secret http://www.seraphicpress.com/. He also writes a regular column for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/author/ravrech/.

This piece is reprinted here with permission of the author. It first appeared on his blog, Seraphic Secret, in 2004.

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