|"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