Our son Noah married Chesray Dolpha in our living room two years ago. A friend, a feminist judge, married them. Chesray’s from a township in Capetown. She goes to a church in Harlem that has 5,000 congregants every Sunday. Being with her at church was more or less the opposite of going to a synagogue, as a secular Jew. No one seemed ambivalent about anything.
I Am the Embodiment of Infinite Possibilities (First Corinthian Baptist Church)
A few thousand people (yes)
wait in line for the third service
of the morning, at the Black Church in Harlem
where my South African daughter in law
Chesray Dolpha, attends most Sundays.
I am not a stranger
to religious institutions
that aren’t mine.
As a child I often asked
friends to take me with them.
In a way this exploration
is one of the ways
we can know one another.
Most of us want our selves
replicated by our children,
our values mirrored and reinforced.
We are afraid of difference.
We want proof that we have passed along
the right tradition
set of beliefs. That we were right
in what we lived and what we knew.
We get stuck in our own dogma. I can sound
all knowing and absolute,
but about almost everything
When our son fell in love with
an African woman from Capetown
I didn’t know what their life would be.
Different from mine. But how?
At Chesray’s church, everyone’s
embraced at the door. The service
is lively and loud. People
shout out. In front of us a very tall
black drag queen in a sequined dress
waving her funeral home fan.
Behind us three older women
from Milan. Many people dance.
We leave and go to brunch.
I am entirely familiar
with brunch. We sit together
Chesray and I, two women
separated by what we know,
by what we learned as children
and we order our coffees,
our Sunday eggs,
each of us knowing
that difference and hope
Author’s Note: Some years ago when we were both teaching at Parsons School of Design, Matthew Septimus and I decided to collaborate. Our intention was to capture holy people and holy places, all that transcended the ordinary, with his pictures and my words. Over the years we began to consider our project as a kind of prayer, how prayers would be if they were pictures and poems. This is one of an eight-part series titled Postcards for Hanukkah.