by Richard Epstein (Washington, DC)
He gave me a saucer containing eleven, neatly cut
pieces of bread: each about a quarter-inch square. I placed one
on the edge of the washing machine in the first floor
powder room, the kitchen counter, the dining room table,
the leather-topped lamp table in the living room,
and on the corner of each dresser in the upstairs bedrooms.
He waited downstairs. When I came back to the kitchen,
he unwrapped a cloth covering a wooden spoon,
the white-feathered wing of a chicken, and a Shabbos candle.
The search for the chometz was about to begin.
I led the way to each piece of bread by candlelight, my hand
cupped in front of the flickering flame as we walked up
the darkened wooden stairway. Melting wax dripped
onto my hand as I watched our shadows high on the wall.
Dad gently nudged each morsel of bread onto the spoon,
then brushed twice with short sweeping strokes
of a chicken wing. He cradled the spoon on his forearm
as if it were a fragile doll and wrapped it within
the cloth before leaving each room.
Dad followed me down the stairs and back into the kitchen.
He whispered a prayer and blew long and slow
across the candle flame.
All things are done with prayer, he said. The candle tried
desperately to hold to its light. Like hoarded silver,
he wrapped the wooden spoon and bound it tightly with twine.
It is done.
Richard Epstein lives in the Washington DC area and is active in the Warrior Poets sponsored by Walter Reed Medical Center, the Veterans Writing Project and he hosts an open mic venue for veterans and friends of veterans on the National Mall.