Tashlich

by Rosanna Warren | June 13, 2013

“Thou wilt cast all our sins into the depths of the sea”*

We needed a running stream but we had our sins
We carried our sins but we needed bread   We found
bread   We carried bread in small stale lumps

to the river the river running as it ought
with water slapped in the face again and again by wind
Glister from high rises began to wink

like foil in the crinkled waves   The pier
carved into the current   What brilliant sins
shook in the punished waves   Do high rise sins

shine brighter   What were your sins   You wouldn’t
tell nor would I ask   The piles from ruined piers
poked at the not-quite-indigo dusk while cars

thrummed along the elevated West Side monotone
and planes whined higher carrying higher sins
and how was it how did it come to be that I

crushed someone’s heart   It wasn’t like tossing bread
in a stream   Then how could it be absolved
by casting bread   That heart wasn’t stale   It wasn’t

a lump   No   More like a wounded pigeon   As if
I’d stamped on its chest with my heel as it flailed and now
the chorus of excuses rises in plainsong   You

toss your bread   The railing is cold at my chest
Your bread shivers and bobs in the waves
I clutch my bread   And what do they mean by sin

I clutch my question   Night is hustling down
over New Jersey over the restless flow
the contradiction between a river’s thrust

to the sea and the tide’s upstream beseeching roughed
by wind   He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap
He lays up the deeps in storehouses so I raise

my hand in the dark   I unclench my fingers   I let
one more sorrow one more question fall
into the sudden the sodden and anonymous night

 

*Tashlich: the Jewish ceremony of casting away the year’s sins symbolically by throwing bread upon running water. It is performed during Rosh Ha’shanah, the Jewish New Year.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//article/113302/tashlich-poem-rosanna-warren