Reckoning | Welcoming 5773

The book of life opens
for ten days
we take stock, reflect

Words in the prayerbook last night
pierced me

something about honest doings by day
so as not to worry
about being discovered at night

And oh, how I know this fear
of being caught
found out, called out, revealed

and this year once again
the vow, returning
an intention
to treat honesty as an act of self-care
as much as flossing
or washing my hair
knowing that to lie
can become a way of life
and cloaked in goodness

when you say yes
but your heart screams
when you say no
but your heart is longing
when you invert the truth
so as not to hurt others
the damage is far worse
than the fallout
of facing
what is true

Two years ago
I drove to Boston
at the close of the High Holidays
and sat
Maezen embraced me
and said I needed to gain some weight
which I have

And now I stand
before the judge and say
it is all true
I take full responsibility
for my actions and nonactions
my words and my silences
my choices
and the lack of explanation
I surrender
not the right
but the need
to defend anything

I stand here with walls
newly erected
invisible perhaps
to the naked eye
an inner architecture
built from handfuls of earth
wildflower seeds
wood I carried
from the forest
dust I collected
from stars
that exploded in my bare hands

false kindness

for all of these
I open the book
and say
I have tossed it all into the river

And also this
maintaining stability
for the children
is both noble
and short-lived
true stability comes from
opening the door
to the upheaval
and trusting that what comes
after the chaos
is more change

I am quiet
on this day
book of wonders
the one I needn’t keep
or covet
the one I write by living
by stepping into each new day
by forgiving myself when I hate what I said
or didn’t say
by embracing my little ones
protecting them
and also knowing
there are some things
I cannot protect them from
nor is that a mother’s job

Life rushes in
will find every crack
every opening
every opportunity to overtake
the cliches
of our carefully laid plans

And so
with a wide open heart
and big life
and ever-expanding
of peace
and freedom
power and joy
as the Book of Life lies open
for these next ten days

may speaking the truth
even if only
your own heart
bring some sweet
from whatever
burdens you
by day and at night
you are loved
you are worthy
you are alive

8 thoughts on “Reckoning | Welcoming 5773

  1. Pamela says:

    Jena, this is the most fabulous thing I have read in months. Honestly, you have such a gift. So much of this brought me chills: being found out at night, living for your children – the noble and short-lived – change, chaos, surrendering not the right but the need. You are a wonder.


  2. artistmarlene says:

    My name is Marlene Burns. I own the copyright on this original painting in my Judaic Collection of art based on prayers, psalms, blessings and holy days. The name of this painting is Avinu Malkeinu and the text that accompanies it can be found at There you will find the artistic message and meaning as well as information about the prayer itself.

    In the future, please know that finding an appropriate image on the internet, doesn’t mean you have the rights to use it without expressed written permission. As a writer, I am sure you can understand how you would react, seeing your words attached to my original creation…..



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