Food, Faith, and Family: Three Poems for Passover

April 15, 2019Bruce Black

1

You won’t smell soup cooking yet
or cake or kugel or tzimmes baking
on the day before Passover.

There’s just the sight of empty
cupboards, counters crowded with
hametz, boxes of cereal, cans of
beans, jars of jelly.

The oven is cleaning itself
this year, but not the racks.
I’ll scrub them with a Brillo pad
until my arms and fingers ache
and the silver gleams and the
stains of the past year wash off
with the soapsuds down the drain.

Before long I’ll wipe the crust of crumbs
off the inside of the oven and I’ll wipe
all the countertops and the table, too, and

I’ll put away the toaster (after cleaning
it out) and begin stocking the shelves
with boxes of matzah and jars of
gefilte fish.

And soon that which we eat throughout
the year will be forbidden, and that which
we don’t eat will be what we eat

and our stomachs will shrink with our new
diet, and it will be Passover, and we’ll know
we are slaves again, hungry for what we

don’t have, and the hunger will remind us
of our suffering at the hands of the Egyptians
and once again will bring us closer to those
who suffer, enslaved, today.

2

Have you noticed how we try to remove
all the hametz from our lives
during Passover 

as if hametz was another word for
pride, puffing us up like fools
so we are unable to see
the truth (or falsehood)

of our own life?

Maybe that’s the lesson of Passover
or maybe it’s about learning how to
walk along an unfamiliar path
where no path existed
before

or how to walk into darkness
and sandstorms
and heat
and a blinding
sun

how to keep walking toward
some unknown future
even if you can’t see
the horizon

knowing—just knowing—
you‘ll find your way, and
it will work out,

if not for you, then for your
children, and your children’s
children.

3

I’m waiting at the gate
on Passover eve
for my daughter’s plane
from Boston via Atlanta
and wondering when
she will appear.

It reminds me of the way
each year we wait
midway through our seder
for Elijah the Prophet
to come through
the open door.

And when my daughter
steps through security
and waves her hand—that little
wave she always gives—
I feel at peace again,
as if the holiday has
already begun.

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