Rachel Barenblat


The days will lengthen
the voice of the very thrush
will be heard on our land

the tiny stars of crocuses
well-rested from the long dark
will adorn the icy mud of spring

the sap already rising
will feed a million tiny banners
unfurling across the hills

and this small blue pill
will banish anxiety, restore to me
the woman I only dimly remember

laughing in photographs
with her hand on her round belly
hope curled inside, waiting to unfold

(first published inWaiting to Unfold, Phoenicia, 2013.)

Baruch She'Amar: Blessed is the One Who Speaks

Every sunrise and sunset, birth
and death, storm and flood, blossom
and snowfall. Every lip balm,
paperback novel, beggar and bowl
and hair salon. Every glass of water,
muddy gorge, mother
and market and corrugated roof.

Rhododendrons, dirty oil barrels
filled with groundnut paste,
filigreed teapots, emerald beetles,
scrolls, wooden tulips, bottles of beer.
Sequoias, crepe myrtle, dwarf birch.
Every rubber band. Every paperclip.
Every open sore and aching tooth.

How does Your mouth not tire
of speaking the world into being?
Almighty, Your creations cannot imagine
infinity without growing weary.
It's hard to remember
Your mouth is purely metaphor
though Your speech is real.

You speak every atom in the universe,
a mighty chord resonating.
Every fold of skin, every grain of sand,
every iceberg and hibiscus come from you.
If You ever chose silence, even for an instant,
we would blink out of existence
as though this experiment had never been.


Meditation on Removing Leaven
the night before Pesach

What does it mean to remove chametz
when my cupboard overflows
with toddler-friendly goldfish
and mini-muffins? If there is

any chametz I do not know about
— odds are good there are stale O's
in the crevices of the car seat,
but the rest of our leaven is

in plain sight, soft whole-wheat
awaiting jam's unfurling —
that I have not seen or removed,
I disown it. That part

of the formula at least still works.
An invisible line: between
his English muffins, his toasted bread
and my boxes of matzah, waiting.

Even if I don't light a candle
Ribbono shel Olam, help me
to sweep the crumbs from even
the ill-tended corners of my heart.

The too-sour puffery of ego,
the impulse in me that needs
to be in charge, needs to be right,
needs to be praised. The part of me

that forgets the daily importance
of prayer and kindness. I disown it.
I declare it to be nothing
as ownerless as the dust of the earth.


No Limit

Things which have no limit in this world or the next:
a parent's tender worry cartoons in syndication

the world glinting and shattered hot tea to soothe our sorrows
sunrise following on the heels of dawn, which follows night

the eggshell blue of autumn sky grief: another gun death
the rise and fall of breathing clock hands ticking forward

two brothers meeting at a grave their eyes rimmed red from weeping
the silence in between the words of every mourner's kaddish

the need for simple kindness on the subway platform
on the broken sidewalk on the email list-serv

your hand in mine now, warming my heart cracked clean and opened
the heavens glistening with stars waves running and returning

Standing at the Edge


In Reb Shlomo's parable
the rabbi stands at the edge
of a sea of tears
and refuses heaven
until all are shed.

You have drifted on that sea,
trailed your fingers
in its salt waters
wondering why no one on shore
notices you're gone.


The fear says
if you open the porthole
Noah's own floods will pour through
towering like a ziggurat
and wash you away.

And others, innocent.
They might be caught
in the raging waters.
You can't warn them
to build an ark in time.


The problem is (you explain)
you don't trust intuition.
Your dream guide replies
where do you think
the poems come from?

You've spent a life
thinking you had only two eyes.
Now you realize: that's
what that extra tender spot
is for. Press, and tears well up.


Take up paleontologists' tools,
tiny pick and fine brush.
Watch the ancient skeleton emerge.
Imagine the impact
which made this impression.

As many times as necessary
tell yourself
no matter how far you dig
you won't burst the capstone
on the primordial seas.


Turn a corner, you're
a beginner again.
Relearn how to shore
yourself up, build
a path you can trust will hold.

You want to believe
you can turn emotion's flood
into living waters
from which you'll emerge whole,
dazzling like the sun.

Word to the Wise

here: click on the X
to close the browser window,
clap the clamshell laptop shut

resist the twitching impulse
to open up Facebook
in search of one more pellet

remember that in public spaces
the comments are a hive
of stinging wasps

take three deep breaths
all the way to your diaphragm
lower your clenched shoulders

steep your mind's tofu
in a gentle bath of poetry
seasoned with psalms

savor all five tastes
with no danger of sickness
in the hard drive or the heart

(originally published in April Daily, Velveteen Rabbi Press, 2013)