Tribal Ghazal

by Sue Swartz (Bloomington, IN)

Be careful to perform all the words of this Torah, for it is not
an empty thing for you, it is your life…

I would welcome an easy forgetting, if not for the words.
I would pass up allotment and ceremony, but never the words.

Presence/Absence, glory & thunder, text with great resiliency:
Velvet-wrapped, indelibly inked, my self bows before the words.

From birth, a tribalist: daughter with broad receptivity –
I lie down and rise up with the sweet imperfection of these words.

Ancient scrolls stay alive with impudent twists of commentary.
I turn and turn the story, and the story (in turn) turns my words.

Transcendence doesn’t really interest me, nor does equanimity.
I prefer uproar, wild beasts set loose in the Garden of Words.

The believer in me is undecided, often racked with deniability.
Agnostic though I may be, I do not believe these are useless words.

Oh – to be the prime redactor, creator of numinous biography.
Lowly poet, heretical follower, I wrestle headstrong with the words.

Distracted and doubting this afternoon, still here I am, hineni.
Perilous to live like this, can’t stop swooning over the words.

The prophet’s heart is a raging fire, helpless before God’s word.
I’d burn too, wander alone in wilderness – were it not for the words.

Sue Swartz is a poet, essayist, and social justice activist living in Bloomington, Indiana. Her two blogs reflect her current passions and writing projects: Torah, tattoos, and truth are the focus of Awkward Offerings (, while musings on work and workers is featured on Chop Wood, Carry Water (

1 Comment

Filed under American Jewry, Jewish identity, Jewish writing

One response to “Tribal Ghazal

  1. Victoria H. Bedford

    Beautiful, brave in it’s self revelations.

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