“The Bird of the Soul” by Jane Beal

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My poem, “The Bird of the Soul: A Psalm of Lament,” now appears in the Jewish Literary Journal 77 (November 2019).

The Bird of the Soul
A Psalm of Lament

I.

I am in love with you.
I need you
to come to me
here.

Why will you not come?

I bow my head in grief.
The tears come from a deep place.
Shana tova,a woman says,
and I understand what she means.

Why will you not come?

How can it be a good thing
if my heart breaks,
and out of the ashes of my heart,
something new grows?

Why will you not come?

O God, perfect heart-builder!
You said he would come to me here.
But he says he will not come.

O God, I am alone without him.
My heart is breaking in pieces,
and it is a new year.

II.

My soul is a bird
in pain.  

My heart is a leaping bird
breaking in flight.

The nest is empty.
The nest is empty now.

When there were nestlings,
a cruel child came

and struck the mud nests
from the wall, so that they fell

and all our nestlings
died.

Now my soul is with the other bird-women,
crying in a wheeling-circle over the nesting place

where there is nothing
except what has fallen

to the ground,
to the ground.

My soul is a bird
in pain. 

My heart is a leaping bird
breaking in flight.

III.

Now it is the Day of Atonement,
and I must atone for my sins.
I know I have sinned, and I blame myself,
and I fear that I have forsaken my blessing
by reaching out to take it too soon.

O Lord God, have mercy on me!
My longing was so great!

If you cut open the pomegranate,
you will see my heart.
My heart is a leaping bird, breaking in flight.

All night I lie dreaming, and nothing
takes away my sorrow.

IV.

On Wednesday, I will go outside
and begin to build the outdoor tent, where
I am supposed to live this week and remember
how my ancestors dwelled in tents
in the wilderness before God
brought us into the Promised Land.

I will see the birds fly overhead by day,
and the stars wheel overhead by night.
It is the season of harvest.
Even my dog knows the time.
My womb, however, weeps blood,
again and again and again.

V.

I want to sing the songs that are inside,
each one a little babe –

I want to sing the psalms that save and bind up
bright and broken wings –

songs like lullabies
to little hearts, like lullabies to mine –

but never again sung to rock the cradle,
never again to watch it fall down.

O, how can the childless mother
make a wish in the dark? The silence

is very deep now. The silence
is profound.

jb

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