Alexander Levering Kern


Why Do You Come Here?

“God follows me everywhere”
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

The breath, the ruah, the Shekinah
won’t leave me alone, not for one second, I say.

Not that I mind, mind you-
what is this body but a vehicle for breath?

On second thought, it’s far more than that:
mud, spit, sinew, bone- each an astonishing 

miracle of matter, an invitation to taste and see.
And what then matters more after all

than the free play of light behind the eyes, 
those fleeting autumn afternoons 

when all that is demanded of us 
is to sit in sunlight, to watch and rejoice

to know the turning, the great return,
of one who promised to never leave us

as alive in a flower pot as on Mount Sinai
(O please forgive my heresy, I cannot help but praise.)

This little room of the body, every single molecule 
charged with glory, the heart held high

like my father’s on that winter day 
when the doctor described the surgery

the gentle lifting of the heart from its cave 
as if singing with the psalmist, Open my heart, 

let my mouth -this frail whisper and song-
proclaim your praise in just one breath

your breath and mine as one.


-for my father Charles Everett Kern II (1934-2020)


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