I learned to question God
from a story of Yom Kippur my mother once told
on broadloom steps that muffled sound,
her voice foggy with memory.

In the mourner’s month, September, 1942
as mothers broke their water
on freight trains
that snuffed the air from the living.

Jews, in the hamlet of Osmolica,
collected a multitude  of good acts and sins
and piled them high as sacrament in a wood shack.

City-reared Jews, tailor-thrift Jews,
tame and hungry shtetl Jews
fasting to the letter of the law,

wrung their hands in fever prayer,
tore their hair and pummeled  walls,
until their Maker could taste blood.

Save us, Gott, they cried in Yiddish,
mother tongue culled from the pure strain of their tormentors.

Reboyne Sheloylem,  forgive us,
they paid homage in Hebrew.
Seal us from harm in the Book of Life.

Which language did God favor behind  the gates of the Righteous?

Whose voice did he hear?
Not one.

Except that of a child who looked on in abject terror
and in her duel with God,
stepped  from the burning bush
to testify
to his seeming indifference.

About Carol Lipszyc

Carol Lipszyc is an Assistant Professor at SUNY Plattsburgh teaching Creative Writing and English teacher education. Her book of poetry, Singing Me Home, was published by Inanna in November, 2010. Her poem "In Mild Praise of Fractions" was recently published in Room, Vancouver B.C. Educational articles have been published internationally, and her ESL/Literacy reader, People Express, was published by Oxford University Press.

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