Jericho, New York
Matthew L. Schwartz
And as I enter my synagogue, the lights on low; the eternal flame over the ark burning bright highlighting the Hebrew above the Ark with our eternal flame: Know Before Whom You Stand:as angels tremble in awe/I bow my head in respect and I begin to beat my chest as I admit my transgressions and make them known before God/my tears streak down my cheeks as they bear witness against me:I cast myself away from my sins in this midnight hour/seeking this midnight reprieve and in the darkened halls of my shule/where I was raised:I raise my voice to heaven and pray that my words are carried to God, blessed be he, on the backs of angels’ wings as synagogue mice daven next to me as equals/for we stand as one creation before the lord in our darkest hours/both made by his hands and both to return to dust/and as I scream with my head flung high to the heavens while I face East, as the clock turns so too shall I face the gallows of ignorance and hate/my voice shattering, so primordial, I hear his voice calling back to me:
I will take you, I will hold you, I will love you, I will redeem you, I will sanctify you: breathe in my scent, feel my presence behind you/if you fall I will catch you/I will count you among my portion but not among my flock:you are not a sheep passing under my staff meant to walk placidly among the many. Go forth a soldier in the service of your lord/combat hate:hunger:war:greed:apathy/do my work and within my arms you shall be secure/in my tabernacle you shall be safe from harm/my heart will be your strength and the Torah your guidance:hold it and hold me/know it and know me, stand up for the weak/feed the widow and the poor:with your body protect the children:the infirm:the weak:let your body not be used as a vessel for war but let it become a symbol for peace and a physical shield for those too weak to defend themselves for I will heal all wounds and your flesh will tell the story of righteousness.
And as I anoint myself with oil and bind myself with the words of the lord upon my hand and between mine eyes: the leather of tefillin wrapping me in safety, the sun begins to rise and from darkness comes light, from chaos comes order and as I walk outside to confront my accusers/their fingers are pointed at me, people testifying and bearing false witness as they stare me in the eye, forked tongues shouting out lies about who and what I love/but I do not fear as I am lifted up among mine enemies and though I can see their camps as they surround me I shall fear no evil for the lord is my salvation and though in their hands they hold the rocks of bigotry:ignorance:hate I know I am not forsaken for he who is exalted has his hands cupped around me as angels guard my steps, taken in trepidation as I step forth into the future, so unknown but ordained/as it is written so it shall be:as I begin to walk from the hushed quiet center of this storm, making my way through these blind fools who cannot see as lighting and thunder resonate with each step as the wind blows and they look up at me in condemnation while they hurl stones that would shatter their own windows/I respond in tongues for all to hear me and for all to understand as they tell me that I have no heroes, that I am an abomination, that I have cast myself in sin, that I am in darkness so thick that the lord cannot see me/that I lie with a man as I would lie with a woman.
My heroes are my people/the same ones who you say want me oppressed: I turn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and I live in the spirit of Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Leah and I walk the path between the physical and spiritual planes with Miriam as my guide: no human being is an abomination for we are all made in the divine light of God; it is our actions that determine our place among the stars as six million shed their blood so too did my brothers and sisters who bore the weight of the triangle at the camps and the sin that I am cast into is the sin brought upon by circumstance/though from a wealthy background I am but to you a second class citizen and though I hang out with Rogues and Slags and Hookers and Thieves there is honor in preaching to my congregation because I would rather be counted among those who are true to their nature and who are honest with me about who they are and what they believe than among a thousand congregations who cannot crawl through the eye of a needle/there is no darkness which can hide me from the grace of the lord, for grace is bestowed upon those who suffer persecution in the pursuit of peace and mine is the kingdom of heaven and I will not relinquish my birthright for if the lord were to make a stone which he could not lift it would be his word/his promise alone, that would leave that stone upon the ground. I do not lie with a man as I would lie with a woman and I know of no man who would lie with me in such a way: they lie with me like they would with another man:masculine and beautiful and blessed by God and though I be forsaken by some who say that they are of my flesh and my blood I am taken up by God and though I may be beaten the lord will by my salve and my healer and though I may be lost in a sea of confusion all I have to do is look up to the eternal flame and I have once again found my way.
I continue to push through the crowd as cuts appear on my skin, my clothing tattered and as I reach the outer edge of this chaos/this evil, I turn around to see nothing but an empty parking lot, the morning newspaper strewn upon the ground, blowing around: headlines so cutting, of a world gone insane and the voices, so quiet now in the leaves shrouded by free speech and opinions and spin, I walk through this mess swiftly, because I can feel the presence of another Hitler in the winds.