Friday, June 06, 2014

Inviting the Buddha to Minyan

"Sleepy trees in the morning," photo by Darek, used under cc license

Inviting the Buddha to Minyan

Today the tenth man is the odd man out. A woman
of indeterminate age in a small chapel where the rest
are familiar enough not to stare at the tiny boxes
and leather straps binding ancient prayers
to forehead and arm. Historical and modern
rest easily: tallit and cellphone holsters, tefillin,
shorts, and Tevas. I am here because of guilt—
a phone call answered in a distracted moment,
uncomfortable with the endless praising
of a deity I stopped wanting to believe in
long ago. The dust of the desert coats
the back of my throat and the song falters.
My neighbor leans in to whisper page numbers.
I don't have the will to tell him
all the letters squirm and dance, strangely
shaped specimens swimming across
a lab slide. Memories of the cycle of endless
days at Hebrew School rescue me and my voice
rises with the rest. My breathing settles. I catch
a glimpse of peace here, of lovingkindness there.
My heart finds a rhythm it stops fighting. Sunlight
streams in through stained glass. Dust motes
sparkle. My mind picks at the tight knot
of its own ambivalence. That, too, is a kind of ritual.

   --LJ Cohen, June 2014

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