mostly illogical imperatives, prohibitions and rigorous modes of existence - CK Williams
I suppose my mother’s gesticulations from the women’s gallery
on the Day of Atonement, surreptitious eating motions
at my brother and me that meant it was time
for a visit to our car (prudently stationed blocks away),
weren’t as apparent to everyone else as they seemed to us,
though surely, we cringed,
the entire congregation must have noticed
her invitation to transgress?
And every year, the same debate:
whether the cup of wine should be raised or lowered
just at that point in the seder,
a word meaning ‘order,’
a challenge to our lack of certainty
as the children instructed their grandfathers
on what needed to be properly done.
Now I have lost the gift of repetition
I can no longer see these husks
produce their garlands of variation.
And if once I saw a man weeping in that congregation
so that someone set a chair aside for him —
angrily mistaking my childish, unguarded fascination for mockery —
I know enough now to know
that when someone weeps like that
it’s kindest to leave them
to what all ritual freely chosen bestows:
a separate place that compresses place,
a time that foreshortens time,
a broken pattern, opened sky
for the soul we had almost forgotten,
the life we almost lived, to unfurl.
Doing the washing-up, for instance: no more now
than an occasion to brood,
the glasses’ rims a tiara of offences taken
while Dad, on the other hand, sings
his favourite bits from the liturgy,
as he handles each dish slowly
as if it were an offering:
repeated, lifted, adorned
in opalescent suds.
About the Author
Isi Unikowski lives in Canberra, Australia. He has been widely published in Australia and overseas, including Best of Australian Poems 2022. His published poetry can be viewed at https://www.isiunikowski.net. His first collection, Kintsugi, was published in 2022 by Puncher & Wattman, New South Wales.