a ritual casting off of sins during the Jewish New Year
I change in the dark
because sometimes I think god is peeping
through the keyhole the way my father did,
staring at my adolescent breasts,
his eye like a cold blue fish
that moved into his face
and changed it, the way some people look
after a stroke, half-dead, half-stunned
at how much they need
their bodies and how quickly the inconsolable
finds a home there. Praying makes me feel naked
so I do it when no one is watching.
It feels like confession saying these things to you
and maybe it was some kind of redemption
I hoped to find in your arms yesterday.
I don’t really believe in god
but sometimes I talk to him anyway,
the way I wish I could talk
to my husband, about how sometimes
on windy nights I hear the ocean
raining in the house
and wander room to room
to find no water, only rust
around the window sills
like a leaking inward of salt.
But mostly driving home today
I want to show you the leaves
blushing into their single autumns
the way they curl towards each other
like sleeping hands, like hands on their way back
to whatever they reach for each day
and I want you here beside me,
our skin repeating its refrain
of longing, I want your mouth more than I want
forgiveness, the way last week at Tashlich
the gulls swooped down, laughing and entitled—
swooped down on the bits of floating bread
our sins become each year—
like little gods, like hungry little gods.
Babo Kamel’s poems have appeared in The Greensboro Review, Alligator Juniper, the Grolier Poetry Prize, Contemporary Verse 2, among others. She was a winner of the Charlotte A. Newberger Poetry Prize, for which her poem was published in Lilith. Originally from Montreal, she now resides in Venice, Florida.