Turn, Turn, Turn

by Janet Ruth Falon (Elkins Park, PA)

I’d like to ask Pete Seeger to supper in my sukkah.
He’s 92 now, and who knows how many more?
I’d serve vegetable stew on brown rice
and a seedy home-risen bread
and after a local, seasonal pie
I’d turn to him, and tell him
how I grew up, and then out, on his music,
how The Weavers were my family’s soundtrack,
how my parents didn’t care about the politics
but just liked the songs, and sang along
— and our family didn’t sing much —
especially my father, in a buffalo-plaid shirt,
at an Adirondacks bungalow,
on the steps to a screened-in porch,
holding up the trout he’d caught on Schroon River
like a Torah just taken from the Ark.

After I’d served tea, and offered sweaters against the autumn night,
I’d turn to Pete, and tell him
how his songs, and the banjo,
and that beckoning voice of his youth
are the best sounds of my innocent soul,
the part that’s pure, that’s remained unmarred;
that his songs blessed me with things to believe in,
and how, to this day, I’m not only willing,
but I’m desperate for him to raise a hand between strums,
and point to me, to us, urging us to sing together, to sing along,
to sing for God-knows-what something.

The sukkah rustles in the wind, leaves crackle,
weary season’s-end mosquitos make a half-hearted appearance.
I wrap my father’s buffalo-plaid shirt around me;
I wear some of his clothes now that he’s gone.

Pete would turn to me, chuck me under the chin,
and sit up higher in his brittle, reedy body.
He’d hold up his hand as if to part waters
and point
and every person sitting in any sukkah
anywhere in the world at that moment
would start singing that song from Ecclesiastes,
The one about time for this, and time for that,
and the four-part harmony would rise out of the sukkahs
towards heaven, if there is one,
like sweet, good-hearted smoke.

Janet Ruth Falon, the author of The Jewish Journaling Book (Jewish Lights, 2004), teaches a variety of writing classes — including journaling and creative expression — at many places, including the University of Pennsylvania. She leads a non-fiction writing group and works with individual students, and is continuing to write Jewish-themed readings for what she hopes will become a book, In the Spirit of the Holidays.

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Filed under American Jewry, Jewish identity, poetry

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