The Reasons for Liturgy

Because the woman on the subway wore red pants
and a hospital bracelet and sat alone

Because the train stalled at 137th St.
and the woman wanted to be home in her bed

Because my husband stumbled upon a broken clay pot
and threw out the baby ficus with the shards

Because my son cried, Where’s my ficus?
I watched its first sprout, dreamed of each new leaf

Because my son and I rummaged through
the trash bags in the basement recycling room

Because our gloved hands groped
pizza boxes, milk cartons, crumpled tissues

Because the words in my notebook offered
no comfort on the stalled train

Because a painting is titled Sadder than a single star
that sets at twilight in a land of reeds

Because my son and I scoured twenty bags of trash
and we didn’t find the baby ficus

Because the rabbi said​ the spiritual life takes place​
between the difficult and the impossible

Because everyone on the train​
was dying and living at the same time

Because every year we recite Aveinu Malkeinu
to summon God who has no gender

Because we pray to be renewed
and three weeks later we are exactly the same

Because my son and I hugged in the elevator
and the stench of rubbish lingered on our skin

Because the woman on the subway
was reading ​a Russian novel

Because the title of the painting
is sadder than the painting

Because words deceive
but prayers are here to stay

Because the train began to move
and the woman’s shoes were the color of a robin’s egg

Because of all this, God of forgiveness: pardon us, forgive us, grant us atonement

This poem is reprinted with permission of the poet.