Next Year in Jerusalem

Where was that place?
Was it on the tree-lined street we drove down Sunday mornings
to look at mansions? Was it on the basement shelf,
too high for me to reach to see what was stored there?
Or was it like that horse that cantered across the white fields
when no one was watching? Or like the word death I thought about in bed
after my mother whispered the story and my body shook
and she explained it’s a place we all go?
Would it be next year?
Or perhaps it was like that diagram she drew
when I asked how I was born: the man’s part, then the woman’s:
This goes into this. When would I understand? Next year? In Jerusalem?
On Passover she gave me a piece of rock candy to suck on
as we sat through the sedar — the sugared cherry sweet on my tongue
as we sounded the words: Next year in Jerusalem, mine,
she said, as God commanded, forever.

First published in “The Torah Garden” (Autumn House, 2007 and 2011) as part of a longer poem, “Our Jerusalem.” Philip Terman is the author of “Our Portion: New and Selected Poems,” “The House of Sages,” “Book of the Unbroken Days” and “Rabbis of the Air.”