May 13, 2022
Midsection of woman reading book against black backgroundValentin Rusu / 500px/Getty Images

A poem for Shavuot by Emily Stern


My friend keeps a Thich Nhat Hanh book on his nightstand.

I brought it downstairs this evening to read aloud for fun- while he cooked for us- I enjoy and looked forward to expanding consciousness, hearing wise metaphors, connecting through love, sharing a meaningful moment, and whatever else I hoped for.

So I read it in an animated, overly dramatic voice to entertain

and he was taken aback.

Feeling mocked, he snapped, “What if someone read Torah that way?”


Oh Torah? Oh, haha, no, you see,

She is devoured by us like we are crazed dogs

digging through dirt to gnaw at her bones.

Somehow, everyone knows this is code for praise.


We encourage children to swing

from her branches,

She gives us life,

and we stretch the ducts of her breasts

‘till her skin is raw, and she overflows.


Her lovers

agonize over the layers of meaning

in every movement, blink, glimmer of ink,

making up stories, she must be… what I think…

in the depths of her waters, we  s i n g  while we sink.


She’s a mountain tempting us to be as high as we are, a well as deep,

she may never really be known or seen.

She is child; she is pure.

She is broken; she is wrong.

She is perfect; She’s unfolding.

She is everything we are.


“I am sorry for not treating your sacred text mindfully,” I looked down with tears

my mind blazing with black and white photos of the Torah being burned.


Wearing your finest dress to play hopscotch

turns it the most special day.

Let’s not keep Spirit in the museum,

to appreciate from afar.

Use me. Live through me.

Take me for this ride if you…




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