This time is sacred for the good or bad
it could become but isn’t yet. For the 4 a.m. phone
that doesn’t ring but might.
Ma nishtana ha’laila ha’zeh mi-kol ha’leilot?
Why is this night different than all other nights?
It’s not. It’s only the cusp each night is, the anteroom
for all that follows—illness, one step
off the wrong curb, one moment when the heart forgets
to keep time.
But such questions are essential,
inviting the story that takes us from slavery to freedom.
Even when celebrating Passover alone, we are commanded
to ask, to become both the teller and the other
to whom the story is told:
And the night of the final plague,
mark your doorposts with blood
so the Angel of Death might pass over.
Then we eat bitter herbs to taste the pain of those not
And there was a loud cry in the land, for there was
no house where there was not
someone to mourn.
In hope some trace remains,
I run my hands along every doorway
we enter, wondering,
Why others and not us?
I know nothing that makes us worthy
of such consideration.
And dread, sometimes, is a darkness
so thick it has me groping at noon. And questions,
sometimes, are all we have left: Like even with all
that could, that will occur, what else is there
except to move forward?
“Nevertheless” from Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going (c) 2019 by Jessica Jacobs. Appears with permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.
* Writing Prompt: In this time of great isolation, when “unprecedented” is thrown around like toxic confetti, one possible remedy is to look to the past. Describe a scene from a story that precedes you (from a religious text; from your town’s, state’s, or country’s history; from some important family lore) and place it on the page beside a scene from your own life you’re trying to better understand. Let your poem rise from the conversation that happens between these two stories.
Architect of icebergs, snowflakes,
crystals, rainbows, sand grains, dust motes, atoms.
Mason whose tools are glaciers, rain, rivers, ocean.
Chemist who made blood
of seawater, bone of minerals in stone, milk
of love. Whatever
You are, I know this,
Spinner, You are everywhere, in All The Ever-
Changing Above, whirling around us.
Yes, in the loose strands,
in the rough weave of the common
cloth threaded with our DNA on the hubbed, spoked
Spinning Wheel that is this world, solar system, galaxy,
Help us to see ourselves in all creation,
and all creation in ourselves, ourselves in one another.
Remind those of us who like connections
made with similes, metaphors, symbols
all of us are, everything is
Remind us as oceans go, so go we. As the air goes, so go we.
As other life forms on Earth go, so go we.
As our planet goes, so go we. Great Poet,
who inspired In The Beginning was The Word . . . ,
edit our thoughts so our ethics are our politics,
and our actions the afterlives of our words.
Previously published in GHOST FISHING: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology, editor Melissa Stucky, University of Georgia Press 2018.
* Writing Prompt: Write a poem in which you suggest a connection between anything listed below and something else. Or connection between you and others, or your/our context in nature, on Earth or in the universe: stone, sky, forest, ocean, sand, snow, leaf, cloud, earth, life, bloom, pollution, racism, air, cut flowers, Christmas trees, death, rainbow, oil slick, life, insects, air, seed, walls.
Jessica Jacobs is the author of Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going (Four Way Books), winner of the Devil’s Kitchen and Goldie Awards in Poetry and one of Library Journal’s Best Poetry Books of the Year, and Pelvis with Distance (White Pine Press), winner of the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. She lives in Asheville with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown, with whom she co-authored Write It! 100 Poetry Prompts to Inspire (Spruce Books/Penguin Random House) and is at work on a collection of poems exploring spirituality, Torah, and Midrash. Find her at www.jessicalgjacobs.com
Everett Hoagland is a UMass Dartmouth Emeritus Professor and was New Bedford’s first Poet Laureate, 1994-1998. His poetry has been published in periodicals such as The Massachusetts Review, The American Poetry Review, The Crisis, Cross Cultural Poetics, The Progressive, The UUA World, The Providence Journal and The Boston Globe. Anthologies in which his poems appear include What Saves Us: Poetry of Empathy & Outrage In The Age of Trump, Ghost Fishing: An Eco Justice Poetry Anthology, Resisting Arrest, African American Literature (eds. Gilyard & Wardi), The Best American Poetry 2002, The Oxford Anthology of African American Poetry. Hoagland’s most recent book is Ocean Voices (see 2019 3rd printing only). He has been awarded two Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowships and The 2015 Langston Hughes Society Award. He was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, but has lived in New Bedford, MA since 1973.