Yom Kippur, Taos, New Mexico

I’ve expanded like the swollen door in summer
            to fit my own dimension. Your loneliness

is a letter I read and put away, a daily reminder
            in the cry of the magpie that I am

still capable of inflicting pain
            at this distance.

Like a painting, our talk is dense with description,
            half-truths, landscapes, phrases layered

with a patina over time. When she came into my life
            I didn’t hesitate.

Or is that only how it seems now, looking back?
            Or is that only how you accuse me, looking back?

Long ago, this desert was an inland sea. In the mountains
            you can still find shells.

It’s these strange divagations I’ve come to love: midday sun
            on pink escarpments; dusk on gray sandstone;

toe-and-finger holes along the three hundred and fifty-seven foot
            climb to Acoma Pueblo, where the spirit

of the dead hovers about its earthly home
            four days, before the prayer sticks drive it away.

Today all good Jews collect their crimes like old clothes
            to be washed and given to the poor.

I remember how my father held his father around the shoulders
            as they walked to the old synagogue in Philadelphia.

"We're almost there, Pop," he said. "A few more blocks."
            I want to tell you that we, too, are almost there,

for someone has mapped this autumn field with meaning, and any day
            October brooding in me, will open to reveal

our names—inscribed or absent — 
            among the dry thistles and spent weeds.

“Yom Kippur, Taos, New Mexico” from All-American Girl by Robin Becker © 1996. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Source: All-American Girl (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996)
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