inspired by Shir HaShirim, Song of Songs 8:6
Set me as a seal upon your heart
As I bridge the span between your hand and my breath.
My touch is fire on wax, melting into gaps between letters
until cool air fashions a brittle shield
to keep you safe, or hidden.
Shun me as a knife to your heart
Or as pinpricks of secrets, blood drawn by my finger.
Like a lamb caught in a thicket of twigs,
You emerged, scratched and worn, and stumbled to a brook
and found me in the water.
I warmed you like a newborn, but you hid your eyes in branches
and forgot how my fire could burn.
Once on my birthday, under the moon, you bathed my words in rose petals
and then traced them at sunrise with a long stem,
taking care to avoid the thorns.
Your fear made me cry; the salt of my tears stung your open wound.
You ran away, now strong as a gazelle
but afterwards allowed me to knit together your ragged edges.
The seal I set in your heart breaks again, and again
my touch thaws and heals.
I don't know what's come over me lately with all this poetry, which has kept me busy during a number of long subway rides. (And extended a trip on Sunday by more than an hour, when I paid no attention to where I was going.) This one is perhaps over the top, but I had fun imagining what my yad (in cahoots with the Torah) might say if it had a little mouth at its end right next to the hand. (The rose petal line refers to Shavuot morning a few years ago when I read Torah using a long-stemmed rose as a yad.) I woke up on Sunday thinking of the Song of Songs, hearing it as set in a beautiful choral piece I once sung. But I couldn't get beyond the first line ("Set me as a seal upon your heart"), and began to wonder if a seal was good or bad; too much adoration can feel like imprisonment.
Mature relationships are much harder to navigate than the flush of new love. I though of my first discoveries of Torah, seven or eight years ago--I was ecstatic, and every word seemed to drip with enlightenment. But over time I saw the raw and difficult parts, and began to engage in a familiar back-and-forth dance of desire and rejection. True understanding of the deepest, most hidden aspects of a person, or of the Torah, means accepting one another's strengths and weaknesses, anger and joy, safety and fear, and understanding that you will both grow and change. (Or, as they say on Facebook about relationships, "It's Complicated.") In the end, the words are still there waiting patiently no matter what.