Poems of Prayer

Recently, my favorite emoji has become ?.

I use it as a blanket expression of gratitude, both to others and to the universe. I have come to perceive the expression of gratitude as an equivalent to prayer, and it captures the reverence inherent in both.

In Jewish practice, the equivalence between gratitude and prayer very much holds true. There are prayers known as brachot, or blessings, which at their very simplest are small thank you notes to god. These blessings exist for nearly every experience, from pooping to getting married. They serve as reminders that there is space for holiness and gratitude in each of the most routine of experiences. The first opportunity one has to say an ‘official’ bracha each day is the moment of waking up — a thank you simply for coming to life once again at the start of the day.

Shehecheyanu (Source: Haggadot.com)

Source: Haggadot.com

One of my personal favorite blessings is the Shehecheyanu, a prayer often reserved for special occasions. It is recited at the beginning of holidays, at weddings, or at conversions. Or, delightfully, when seeing a friend who has not been seen for more than 30 days. It serves as a powerful expression of gratitude at times when the beauty and celebration of life feels most potent.

Here, I play with two interpretations of the prayer.

The first exploration is a direct reflection on the translation of the prayer itself, one inspired by the idea that having been sustained and enabled to reach each and every moment is itself cause for celebration.

The second piece expands this further to play with the idea that everything happens for a reason. It aims to explore the mechanism of how darkness generates light and each experience, choice, and coping mechanism exists for a reason that can ultimately lead to gratitude and celebration.

Jewish Tallit (Prayer Shawl)


Blessed are You, Lord our God,
Ruler of the Universe,

Thank you.
From the still quiet calm
that speaks of stars
and echoes back through
That resides in the space
below my ribcage
and above my belly
Where the breath and stillness live

who has granted us life,

For the sensation of breath
The simple existence of this now
and the next
Each inhale
Nothing short of a miracle

sustained us, and

For having survived,
somehow, on half measures and half portions,
treating emptiness as sustenance
Despite the best efforts
of my grasping
early searchings for sufficiency

enabled us to reach this occasion.

Each nudge and slip and opening
Has been a winding step towards
A constant process of being
exactly where I need to be
in order to reach the next right now.

You Are Here

One Year Chip

My life churns around me.
Shock, nerves, anticipation,
scurry madly through the corridor
above my collarbones:
The space where teachers tell me
years of stress breath huddles,
clinging to its past.

Panic hurries about
shouting warnings,
Impending Doom is coming
but can be controlled.

if it grips hard enough,
it can hold the world still.

It calls to arms
eyebrows, jawbones,
neck and shoulders—
Summoning them,
“Gather round! Huddle close!
Tighten up the ranks!
What are you doing?! This is no time for a meal!

If we hold the lines,”
It promises, hardening everything,
“Nothing can touch us.”

Reality continues to break
in waves
crashing over the walls
that fear has constructed from my body
with force
greater than fear’s fantasy.
Trying to get through.

In moments like this,
Fear and I have always loved

We’d hide together from the cracks
forming in the walls.
We’d revel in distraction
and games of misdirection,
certain sleight of hand
could dam the floods.

Until one day
My panic sucks in water.
I find myself below the sea
and know that I need air.

To reach the surface,
I have to use my body,
breaking up the armored ranks
and shaking off the clamps.
Awkward and clanging,
the shards fall away.

Flailing wildly, finding lightness
through the motion
I find the surface,
Air I’d never known to seek.

People say that life now
is something like a buoy.
Waves beat the shit out of me,
but somehow I still float.

Because I keep on peeling
away this weighted armor,
Each squall can pass more gently,
and I know to only hold right now.

Prayer Candles

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