Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Poem in Your Pocket, Matzah in Your Meal

I heard about this somewhere and then read about it at

Thursday, April 17 is “Poem in Your Pocket Day,” which asks people to carry a poem in their pocket and read it aloud to friends and co-workers. This is the first year that Poem in Your Pocket Day will be a national event. It originated in New York.

With that, and with Passover beginning Saturday night, let me quote Marge Piercy. I hope she won't mind. This poem's title means "Storytelling," and it is the name of the part of the Passover haggadah that indirectly and intricately tells the story of liberation from slavery.


The courage to let go of the door, the handle.

The courage to shed the familiar walls whose very

stains and leaks are comfortable as the little moles

of the upper arm; stains that recall a feast,

a child's naughtiness, a loud blistering storm

that slapped the roof hard, pouring through.

The courage to abandon the graves dug into the hill,

the small bones of children and the brittle bones

of the old whose marrow hunger had stolen;

the courage to desert the tree planted and only

begun to bear; the riverside where promises were

shaped; the street where their empty pots were broken.

The courage to leave the place whose language you learned

as early as your own, whose customs however

dangerous or demeaning, bind you like a halter

you have learned to pull inside, to move your load;

the land fertile with the blood spilled on it;

the roads mapped and annotated for survival.

The courage to walk out of the pain that is known

into the pain that cannot be imagined,

mapless, walking into the wilderness, going

barefoot with a canteen into the desert;

stuffed in the stinking hold of a rotting ship

sailing off the map into dragons' mouths.

Cathay, India, Serbia, goldeneh medina,

leaving bodies by the way like abandoned treasure.

So they walked out of Egypt. So they bribed their way

out of Russia under loaves of straw; so they steamed

out of the bloody smoking charnelhouse of Europe

on overloaded freighters forbidden all ports--

out of pain into death or freedom or a different

painful dignity, into squalor and politics.

We Jews are all born of wanderers, with shoes

under our pillows and a memory of blood that is ours

raining down. We honor only those Jews who changed

tonight, those who chose the desert over bondage,

who walked into the strange and became strangers

and gave birth to children who could look down

on them standing on their shoulders for having

been slaves. We honor those who let go of everything

but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought,

who became other by saving themselves.

from The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems With a Jewish Theme (Knopf).

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