Kavvanot: Meditations


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Tradition should have a vote, not a veto,

say the Reconstructionist Jews.

My vote goes for the third eye

Let the enigmas be unveiled


In the 1830s, tradition did have a veto

that sent the mystical teachings

into hiding.

Exoteric, rational thought is all very well,

but teach me the mystery, hidden magic


Kabbalah kept its secrets for decades,

even from Jews themselves.

Oh, my young loss,

the longing for light, peace, infinity


The deep way, what is received,

handed down orally,

rebbe to student.

I would kneel at your feet, blessed teacher,

where are you?


It found a haven from the Inquisition

in Safed, then Palestine.

Above dusty streets, the hills echoed

with holy words


Kabbalah’s view is a cosmology,

of four worlds,

spirit, mind, heart, body.

Spirit flame burns, mind chatters,

Heart stretches, body dissolves


Through prayer,

with inward intention,

one rises from world to world,

to reach the goal:

nearness to God.


Nothing is outside of God.


Had these teachings

been made known to me

fifty years ago

who knows

what sort of Jewish mystic

I might have become?

from The Jew in the Lotus, by Roger Kamenetz



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I am the ocean

You are the fish

Your forms

of sequined gauze,

flash and fade in

pearl blue sea


I am the silence

You are the jet,

the cricket, the siren

sounds observed

become as waves 


I am the prana*

You are the exhale

lifelong and golden

morning stars flicker out

at daybreak

*prana=life force

Passing Through


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Passing through, passing through

Sometimes happy, sometimes blue

Glad that I ran into you

Tell the people that I’m only passing through.   —Woody Guthrie


He clasped her left arm

with his right hand

fed her nourishing broth

Greek yogurt, lasagna he made

in her kitchen


The Opponent drained her appetite

gripped her right arm

with steady strength

and a beady eye

pulled her into

dusty desert dream

on dry scaly feet


He tightened his fingers

though her arm bruised violet patches

brought her news and music

cucumber and Coke

whatever she fancied

her arm slid away

as if slathered in Vaseline


The Opponent sneered,

I always win

pointed to the faint line in the dust

she’s almost on my side now

Years pull with me, and weariness,

and sour dependence.


He tried everything they said

—protein bars, half-pound weights, smoothies–

He couldn’t hold her

not when when she

was letting go

Room 200


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Light comes through hospital curtains

rise from a deep dream, certain

the sister came with two kids

open lids admitting reality

helpless as a hatched chick

open mouth for yogurt, or refuse

open mouth for pills, or not

sleep is better than awareness

limbs that don’t work

scummy teeth, ragged nails

mind drifts into dream-memories

Greece, the port at Skyros

London, Nottinghill market

Sweden, Susanna’s sunflowers

Light fades into an untouchable dark

of uncountable days

waiting for a conclusion