In the beginning
there was dust
breath of shadow
on the wall.
When a man dies
there is a rending,
stone carved from
clay, dust fraying—
When her father
died, Rivka’s mouth
closed as a seam.
It stood by the light
taller than the window’s frame
When my father died
they thought it was an ending
my future torn as so many garments
Its gaze says the future
might be trapped by the pressure
of our looking, knowing time is measured
by how we choose to be vulnerable. I looked
for you here wanting to place a stone upon a moment
remember more than I can see:
your neck bent to your books,
your glance Nu? just above your glasses
what was refracted in that gaze?
outside the window, the sky refuses description
trapped by the pressure of our looking—
It stands in the light, arms curved as if to cradle
a child, as if holding something left unfinished.
like a scream seen through a window
the aleph has no sound,
an open mouth
twisting in transformation.
you spoke a language, a love
that might be fleeting,
a breath swaying behind this living face.
your voice did not survive you.
this is the greatest part of my loss:
I survive, a cadence remembered,
a wick to flame left to recite you,
not knowing the words.
loss in past tense: we loved
we were loved.
once removed, the aleph
speaks truth, dies:
אֶמֶת to מֵת
I follow our jaw’s mirrored lines,
reach toward you
with my father’s hand
to touch the truth upon your chest.
Rivka’s silence was something to watch,
a field of grain grown beyond understanding.
So, naturally, the women gossiped:
With her father gone, Rivka woke
in a ditch of her own making, unwashed
hands flaking dirt, she turned circles
with cadavers. Like creaking floorboards,
they warned their husbands,
spat three times in the dust.
Who would blame her?
When the mirrors are covered
who is able to see?
So many empty chairs
to push in, blessing faces,
their arrival, a ceremony.
I loved her.
like a broken plate
recited around stone, empty
sweetness pressed in our mouths:
they are coming.
They arrived. Faces at the edge of the wood,
their fevered bodies braiding spaces we kept
to ourselves, in their eyes a secret
to be shared and
in the sharing broken.
I took them in.
sat low to the ground
palms circling stomachs
heads tilting our ears—
to listen or turn from them,
I cannot say.
In silence a gesture is more than words.
Rivka did not move, but her eyes
picked at their threads.
A man can walk in shame
twist his way through a forest,
lost, afraid, finding a field,
like an open door.
These men were no different.
Why should we listen to them?
Some men will hug the door frames
of houses, speaking truths, expecting
disbelief, their memories scratching at walls.
My father would speak
over my shoulder,
open a doorway:
a place without light.
I could smell the storm outside.
He held his beard
like smoke, lips parting:
they spoke through fire,
of horses, riders gleaming,
the stick’s bloody end.
at her bedside draped
in black a dark gaze
kein ayin ha’ra
a woman who labors
straining to rise
when a mother dies
there is a rending.
her mother convulses,
surrounded by faces
like covered mirrors.
their eyes catch
the darkness, try
to speak. a hunger
children plaster their bodies to the wall,
stretching shadows to each candle’s whim,
they take hands, turn in circles
a girl is held in the arms of her golem.
they sit at a table sewing lost bird song,
the notes spark their faces,
the only light remaining.
G-d be praised,
Their stories melted
with the frost leaving
something more tender.
seemed to soften
her head turning slightly
as if to find the sun.
I stood next to her
We believed their story
was the last
grasp of winter,
the way cold will hang
like fog in the branches
Hope can be a distraction
pushing through the dirt.
Forgive us if we stretched in the sun.
What Yaron saw above the burning synagogue
Birds flying the shape of letters
open mouths twisting screams through a window
moving as a seam across the sky
a gesture more than words
wings unfolding like whispered names
a remembered prayer
bodies shadowed by the sun
they spoke through fire
I will always love her
Detroit-born artist Scott Meskill is a sculptor and painter currently based in Los Angeles. Working variously with oil paint, reclaimed wood, metal, and ceramic, Meskill’s figurative work explores themes of limitation, obstacle, hope, and persistence.
Jared Beloff is a teacher and poet who lives in Queens, NY with his wife and two daughters. You can find his work in Contrary Magazine, Rise Up Review, Barren Magazine, Bending Genres, The Shore and elsewhere. He is the editor of the Marvel inspired poetry anthology, Marvelous Verses. His work was nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize for 2021.