This poem originally appeared in the University of Portland Magazine.
The mask feels at home on my face
Like a worn key in a front door’s lock
I make cinnamon rolls without a recipe
And it works, like a miracle
We wipe the counters twenty times a day
Pour the children glasses of milk over and over
When we open the refrigerator
To grab the jug’s thick plastic handle
A brightness inside stands sentry
Holding us in its light for a moment
I used to imagine the refrigerator bulb
Stayed on all the time
Like the Everlasting Light
That hangs before the Holy Ark
In every synagogue
But now that I am older and have seen
How everything can be lost in a moment
I understand two things:
One, the refrigerator is dark
And two, in every synagogue,
Someone changes that lightbulb
Some custodian or rabbi
Or teacher or congregant or volunteer—
And though this sounds like the start
Of a joke, it is the opposite.
In the face of all that would extinguish us
We pour milk, we bake, we take turns, wear
Masks, we keep the light burning,
We keep each other alive.
Alicia Jo Rabins is an award-winning writer, musician, performer and Torah teacher. She is the author of two poetry books, Divinity School (winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize) and Fruit Geode (a finalist for the Jewish Book Award). As a musician, Rabins is the creator and performer Girls in Trouble, an indie-folk song cycle about women in Torah with three albums and accompanying study guides. Most recently she is the creator, star and composer of A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff, an indie feature film based on her one-woman chamber-rock opera, which is currently on the film festival circuit. Visit her at www.aliciajo.com.
Heshbon HaNefesh – A Poetic Accounting of a Pandemic Year is an independent group of poets and artists marking one year of the pandemic in North America. Throughout the week, Jewschool will feature poems from their upcoming poetry readings. Click here for more about this project and how to hear Rabins and others in a live reading.