Poetry by Sally Churgel


The Women's Torah Speaks

On the occasion of the visit of the Kadima Women's Torah
to Congregation Ner Shalom
February 25, 2012

In my beginning
Was the scribe’s blessing  
As she held the quill
Poised for one moment in
Midflight over my void
I waited
Pregnant with anticipation

Then the letter
(Oy, the letters)
304,805 letters (give or take none)
Written into the flesh of my parchment
Each letter formed with such kavanah
One loving straight mark and sinewy curve at a time

Then the words
Six women’s Assyrian calligraphy
Filled my parchment
Forty two lines of letters
Dance on each page
Not one touching
Distinct yet connected
Like my human readers

Oh I am not flesh and blood like they but
I am very much alive with
God’s love and mitzvot

Can you see?
Each letter is illuminated by YHWH
Like a planet revolving around her star
Each word is a solar system of meaning
Each sentence is a galaxy
Each illumed portion
Is a universe expanding
Beyond time and comprehension

Each expansive word
Reveals depths of lust and longing
Forgery and forgiveness, fear and fortitude 

Oh, and those stories
They split my heart open like
Hagar’s – saying goodbye to
Ishmael in the desert of Beersheba
Still, I yearn to rejoice like the Israelites with
Miriam’s tambourines after the sea is split

I wish you could see what I see
When you chant the stories
The words rise from me
A cacophony of color
The crimson of blood and persimmons
White dove words
The desert’s tans and browns
Fringe’s blue threads
Green hills of the Promised Land
Violet prayers

The brilliance of these colors
Ascends to heaven delighting Shekhinah
Who kisses them back to Earth
A mist of Divine love
Descends upon you
A fertilizer for the mind
A shofar to the ears
A balm for your heart
And a connector for your soul

© 2012 Sally Churgel

Cosmic Dust

For Pesach
April 7, 2012

I am God's particles  
Cosmic dust once deposited
On desert sand
Kicked up by pharaoh’s guards
Spit onto slaves
Exhaled in sweat
Inhaled in anguish
Exhaled in tears
Evaporated into summer clouds
Rained on winter seas
Hitchhiked on slave ships
Inhaled by shackled men
Exhaled on cotton fields
Spun into cotton strands
Shipped north
Woven into dresses
Uniforms of working poor
Cut and patched into quilts
One lay innocently  
On my marriage bed
He kept the quilt
I kept my freedom
For joy and self-respect
Prayers held vigilantly
Face lifted
In continual appeal
To God's particles
In cosmic dust

© 2012 Sally Churgel