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The Shape of Your Despair

The Shape of Your Despair

A Poem for Those Whose Souls Are Ailing

Young man in sweats, head down, sitting on the bottom step of a flight of stairs

There is a Jewish prayer callled the Mi Shebeirach in which we ask God, who blesses all, to grant complete healing (refuah shleimah) of body and soul to those who are ailing. Of course, we pray, but one of the beautiful ideas inherent in Judaism is that we work in partnership with God, so even when our prayer is one for healing, we also are called upon to act.

When a malady is physical, we can offer chicken soup, rides to the doctor, books to pass the time. What are we called upon to offer when a malady is less visible – when the healing is needed for the soul, the heart?


The Shape of Your Despair

I don't know the shape of your despair,
or the sound it makes when it
calls you to draw near.

I don't know its color,
or the shimmer of its dragonfly wings
that catch your gaze and draw you inward,
solitary, silent.
Trapped.

Does it even have wings that flutter and blur
and brush lightly against your skin,
soft, like a kiss, leaving a trail of tears
and tiny scars?

Or is that just the feel of my own?

Let me know it, your despair.
Sing me its siren song
of dissonant notes,
its wordless howl.
Let me know its shape,
and the taste it leaves on your tongue.

I will light a candle, or maybe
just sit in the dark with you
for a while, listening
to the keening wail,
and know you are not alone.

Stacey Zisook Robinson is a member of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, IL, and Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe, IL. She blogs at Stumbling Towards Meaning.

Stacey Zisook Robinson
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