Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Tikkun Olam"

This poem is spillover from the July 2, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by comments on "A Different Beat." This poem belongs to the series Walking the Beat.

Worth mentioning is that almost all of my poetic series are speculative in some regard. That's partly because I write a lot of speculative poetry, and partly because my audience loves it too. This one isn't; it's narrative poetry about a pair of lesbians who live in Boston, in the neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, as they deal with everyday challenges. I'm pleased because this expands the variety of my more visible and expandable writing. Feel free to share the news with anyone you think might enjoy reading this.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them. The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.

So far sponsors include: [personal profile] thnidu, Baaing_tree, [personal profile] gingicat 

78 lines, Buy It Now = $39
Amount donated = $20
Verses posted = 9 of 19

Amount remaining to fund fully = $19
Amount needed to fund next verse = $.50
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $2

"Tikkun Olam"

As Dale and Kelly strolled down the street,
they noticed a small crowd of people around
the Nehar Shalom Community synagogue.

It was a relatively new addition, not yet
fully integrated with the rest of the neighborhood.
There were plenty of Jewish people in Brookline --
you could get the best bagels over there --
but not so many in Jamaica Plain.

Parents supervised a jumble of children
as they planted several grape vines
at the base of a wooden arch.
Nearby, another group set out
two different kinds of colorful willows.

Old women puttered around,
cleaning up bits of litter
and dropping them into bags.
Others peeled outdated flyers
off the nearby poles and posts.

Kelly reached up to remove the ones
too high for age-shrunken bodies to reach.
She wasn't a young woman,
but she was nowhere near old
and was taller than anyone else there.

Dale paused to ask if she could
drop off the bits of trash she had picked up
while walking, because those were
awkward to carry while using a cane.

"Of course," said the grandmotherly woman
who was holding the emptiest bag.
"I don't recognize you from synagogue, though.
It's not often we see other people
out doing tikkun olam."

"What's that?" Dale asked,
intrigued by the unfamiliar phrase.

"It means world repair,"
the old woman replied.
"We clean up what is dirty,
fix what is broken, and try to make
the neighborhood a nicer place to live."
"People do a lot of that around here,"
Dale said. "I'm sure you'll fit right in."

A young man leaned over to whisper something
to the bag-holder, soft words that might have been
Hebrew or Yiddish or some other language
that Dale didn't recognize anyway.

"Ah, you are the policewoman,"
the old woman said.
"Retired," Dale pointed out
with a flick of her cane.

"Nu,  you may have given back the badge,
but I do not think you gave back the job,"
came the thoughtful reply. "I'm Rivka,
and this is my son Mendel.
We're pleased to meet you."

"Dale, and my partner Kelly --"
said the not-entirely-retired policewoman
as she looked around,
only to discover that the taller woman
had drifted over to do something
involving a screwdriver and the wooden arch.

"She seems quite handy with tools,"
Rivka observed.
"Better than I am," Dale said,
which was, privately, a bit embarrassing
but better than doing without
a handywoman in the house.

We've been invited to a potluck supper,
Kelly signed to Dale, turning around.
"That sounds great, but we don't
have anything to bring," Dale said.

"Then you can help wash the dishes,"
Rivka said, and Dale had to laugh,
because that was her family's tradition too,
even though they came from different cultures.

"That works for us," Dale said,
and Kelly nodded her agreement,
lip-reading along with the conversation.

It was one more way of
tying together the loose ends of the world.

* * *


Tikkun olam is a custom of civic responsibility in Jewish culture. Special thanks to [personal profile] thnidu for tipping me to this idea, which inspired the poem. It's such a perfect description for what Dale and Kelly do.

The Nehar Shalom Community synagogue in Jamaica Plain is real and fairly recent.

Grapes are among the Seven Species named in the Torah as primary products of Israel.  Plant them in the spring.

Willows are among the Four Species used during Sukkot for sacred decorations.  They may be planted in spring or fall.

Nu  is a Jewish interjection that can mean about twenty different things.  It's often translated as "well" or "so" but there is a wry twist to it that doesn't carry over in English.  The closest equivalent I've heard is the way some rockers get a couple dozen different meanings out of "duuuude."

Jewish potlucks are gaining popularity.  Browse some recipes.  
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, weblit, writing
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