Steven Sher

The Work of Restoring Souls,
West End Avenue Before Dawn

We are wakened by the faintest tinkling
of the homeless rummaging
for nickel deposits—
cans and bottles bagged
beside the curb nine flights below—
and the humming generators
where the Con Ed men
descend into the asphalt pit.



Waiting for theTwo Clunks
(Of the Futon Frame)

            for Ora

Each morning in the dark before rising from bed,
I thank God for restoring my soul. I cross the floor
to wash my hands, dab moist fingertips to the corners
of my eyes, unloosening last vestiges of sleep.
After the bathroom, grateful God has granted me
relief, I don tallit katan and clip a knitted kippah on,
then dress with a sense of modesty and speed,
right shoe pulled up before the left, left tied before the right—
we Jews obsessed with such minutia.

Gathering my bag for shul, I hear two clunks:
my wife closing the futon frame, converting
bed to couch, our room transformed into an office now—
two clunks claiming their rightful place
in our internal life. Does anyone doubt
that God is listening, chuckling over them
before breathing a great sigh of relief
at my wife’s heartfelt heave? With two deep breaths
the day proceeds, lungs billowing with love.


Yom Hashoah, I-5 South of Salem, Oregon

 We come up fast and strangely
silent, flurries blowing from the truck ahead.
Chicken feathers: signs of struggle.
Blood and feces in the sawdust settle.

Here and there a leg or wing pokes free
beyond a cage. “How can they do this
to living things?” my daughter asks.
Birds stare numbly as we pass.


Entering Gehenna

Backed up in morning traffic
we encounter three bold letters


filling the side of a truck
at the Lincoln Tunnel
bound for midtown one day after
a born-again on the bus
that brought me to see my mother
warned of an apocalyptic end—
this great city nearing gridlock,
commuters marooned in idling cars—
raw nerves the unintended spark
starting a storm’s descent.




Steven Sher made aliyah in 2012 from NYC and now lives in Jerusalem. He is the author of 14 books including, most recently, two new poetry titles: Grazing on Stars: Selected Poems (Presa Press, 2012) and The House of Washing Hands (Pecan Grove Press, 2014). A new poetry book, Bending with the Wind, is forthcoming from Cross-Cultural Communications. He taught writing at universities in America for 35 years and continues to lead poetry workshops in Israel and the U.S. See for more information.