Afflicting the Soul: A Poem for Yom Kippur

September 13, 2018Stacey Zisook Robinson, z"l

Afflict my soul ~

As if this were something new,
a commandment of some rarity!
I picture a three-taloned
scourge, held high
in front of me,
my hand clasped
lightly, with comfort
and all too familiar ease.
The tips of those talons
are bloodied.

My soul is afflicted.
It is a talent I have perfected.

But I am to afflict my soul
on that Day,
To hunger,
To thirst
To bear my discomfort
like a badge of unease,
as if, on all those other
days, I do not.

As if on all the other days -
new moon,
full moon,
sickle moons that have their
own power to draw blood -
on every other day
I wear the day
with comfort and ease.

But I will be bound
by these words
of commandment,
and I will hunger
and thirst and bend in
weary affliction.
My soul will find no
comfort as I walk to
the gates I erected,
the ones I barred
in your holy Name.
Perhaps this year,
of all those years
and all those days,
I will lay down the
rusted talons that I carry
too easily, that fit far
too comfortably
in my calloused hands.

And these shall be my peace offering,
and I shall topple the gates,
and I will be whole.

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