Patience + The Tattered Talis – Larry Oakner


From The 614th Commandment
Ki Tissa   Exodus 30:11-34:35

We’ve all danced around our private golden calves,
cast from earrings and doubts.
It’s not the questions but the wonder
that binds us to our future promises.
Once I glimpsed the back of an idea
that blew by me.
Beaming, I picked up the pieces
and waited.


The Tattered Talis 

For Rabbi Batsheva Meiri

My grandfather’s talis
is yellowed as a page from his old siddur,
the silver collar stained by the history of his life:
these were tears for the family left behind,
that was salt sprayed from prayers at sea,
this was sweat wiped from a six day week.
Here his lips kissed the corners of the shawl.

From him to my father,
the threads tie generations together.

My father’s talis
is creased as the pages in a haggadah,
the embroidery ruined by the rub of his life:
these were drops from kiddush wine,
that was ink from the fountain pen,
this lipstick from a wedding kiss.
Here he snagged tzitzis in the zippered bag.

From my father to me,
the threads tie generations together.

My talis
is tattered as a Sunday school bible,
the fabric unraveled by the pull of my life:
these were the holes eaten by moths,
that was from something that spilled,
this rip from a time I don’t remember.
Here it was crushed in a drawer.

We spend our days untangling all that we inherit,
in the hope that we can find the end
to reweave our lives into whole cloth from a common thread
and tie loose strings into sacred knots
like a talis of brilliant white.

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