To help along your repentance and self-reflection, we share this Elul poem from Rachel Barenblat’s Open My Lips: Prayers and Poems. This is one of two Rachel Barenblat collections we published in our Jewish Poetry Project imprint; the other one is Texts to the Holy.
by Rachel Barenblat
God and I collaborate
on revising the poem of myself.
I decide what needs polishing,
what to preserve and what to lose;
God reads my draft with pursed lips.
If I really mean it, God
sings a new song, one strong
as stone and serene as silk.
I want this year’s poem
to be joyful. I want this year’s poem
to be measured like flour,
to burn like sweet dry maple.
I want every reader
to come away more certain
that transformation is possible.
I’d like holiness
to fill my words
and my empty spaces.
On Rosh Hashanah it is written
and on Yom Kippur it is sealed:
who will be a haiku and who
a sonnet, who needs meter
and who free verse, who an epic
and who a single syllable.
If I only get one sound
may it be yes, may I be One.
Thank you for reading! If you appreciated this poem, we offer free shipping on the book within the US. We also have more information to entice you:
This volume of contemporary liturgical poetry is both a poetry collection and an aid to devotional prayer. Open My Lips dips into the deep well of Jewish tradition and brings forth renewed and renewing adaptations of, and riffs on, classical Jewish liturgy. Here are poems for weekday and Shabbat, festival seasons (including the Days of Awe and Passover), and psalms of grief and praise. Open My Lips offers a clear, readable, heartfelt point of access into the Jewish tradition and into prayer in general.
Those who wish to begin a prayer practice in English but don’t know where to start will find this volume offers several starting points. These poems could be used to augment an existing prayer practice, Jewish or otherwise — either on a solitary basis or for congregational use. For the reader of poetry unfamiliar with liturgical text, they can serve as an introduction to prayer in general, and Jewish prayer in particular. And for the pray-er unfamiliar with contemporary poetry, these poems can open the door in the other direction.
We offer another way of preparing for the High Holiday season as well – have you checked out our calendars for the upcoming Jewish year? We have cats and also plants, for the cat and/or plant lover in your life. Start your new year with us!