המשרתים…נותנים באהבה רשות זה לזה להקדיש ליוצרם…
— Shacharit liturgy
I can’t see ghosts by myself. I need help,
from partner or stranger, like once
when I lay awake with a friend in a cabin
in Connecticut and we told each other
about each creak, how we would put salt
on the sills tomorrow because it is said
that ghosts, like invading ants, do not like it.
But there is nothing like a brother
when it comes to ghosts, and when it comes
to other things too, like hiding a sesame ball
filled with red bean paste in my refrigerator
for me to find after he leaves. Maybe part of it
is the habit of hushed New Mexico nights,
venturing into the street with binoculars
to search out a comet, our father’s closest thing
to God. Our mother sleepy in slippers,
giving up as soon as we’d let her, trundling back
inside to bed; but we two stood watch with Daddy,
one part curiosity, two parts obligation.
Such nights glide us silently to icy Massachusetts,
sister and brother walking in another decade,
certain together that the yellow light in the sky
is no airplane; perhaps the earth has acquired
a second, smaller, moon. Meanwhile,
forty-story Christmas trees have sprouted
in the Bay – oh no, mere cell towers, but he sees four;
I blink and blink but still count three.
We’re sure they weren’t there yesterday,
intermittent chessboard of red eyes
gleaming into the unkempt night.
I let him hear me plead to God, this time,
one more tiny revelation,
and we nearly throw up our toenails, not for the first time,
sibling-sickness reprise. We trade viruses, or perhaps
it’s just too much, two children trying to tell the truth now,
each of us trying to know how
to let the other one grow up. This time,
the illness is strange, more like the idea of an illness –
shaking from one noon to another, our bodies weak,
but perhaps only from fear of their own weakness.
We talk about it, but I don’t tell him the precedent –
age eleven, yearning in Los Angeles; given a shofar
for my very own, and promising God
that I would earn it. I offered to suffer a sickness,
which came right on schedule, first day at school
back from spring break. After that I couldn’t doubt,
not God, exactly, but the truth:
you could have a dream, and bring back a souvenir.
This time, too, realness is irrelevant. We’re somewhere new;
our bodies sneak in behind us the best way they know how.
We’re willing to weather it.
POEM: Kedusha (Zeh Lazeh)