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Hadassah Hospital, Ein Karem

From somewhere long past

they come in the morning

these old niggunim – these cadences

they and I graying in the hospital dawn


Why do they sing to me, these words?

I who did not choose this chosen inheritance

yet choose me they do

and I am powerless, stand again

before the opened scroll, kiss my prayer shawl

fringe to the page and sing again the blessings

my strong soprano not yet cracked by life

so sure, so confident, the musk of generations

nodding, word after lilting word


In the corridor a woman sits

velveted in shadow, hair hidden by betrothal

her lips mumble from pages thumbed with

daily use, blessings accepted as her own

a blessing for every season, one for every hour


I see them everywhere, black in the morning’s gray,

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, forgive me stones,

hurrying to and from prayer to prayer

some wearing black hats and fringes

others with robes and shawls and rosaries

and those who kneel to Mecca, blood in their eyes.

Are they chosen too? Each with his own allegiance,

each chosen to be chosen,

each with his own heartbeat of Truth

prophets unquestioned in this holy morning mist


Forgive me Jerusalem, I am of thee

yet are not thine. In a vision I see these words,

these cadences, these prayers in different tongues

ascending as smoke trails rising skyward in the breaking

mist and mingling somewhere on high, in that place

above the clouds where for the briefest moment

the sun bursts through and paints Jerusalem with gold


The head male nurse, a Moslem, bustles in, all smiles

and kindness. Today you go home. I hold his hand

embrace him in gratitude, shoulder my belongings,

step off into another prayerless day

It’s raining in Jerusalem, we all scurry in the fog

each with his own prayer for mercy, dissolving now

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© Johnmichael Simon



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