For Passover During a Pandemic

Nevertheless

This time is sacred for the good or bad
it could become but isn’t yet. For the 4 a.m. phone
that doesn’t ring but might.

Ma nishtana ha’laila ha’zeh mi-kol ha’leilot?
Why is this night different than all other nights?

It’s not. It’s only the cusp each night is, the anteroom
for all that followsillness, one step
off the wrong curb, one moment when the heart forgets
to keep time.
                     But such questions are essential,
inviting the story that takes us from slavery to freedom.

Even when celebrating Passover alone, we are commanded
to ask, to become both the teller and the other
to whom the story is told:

And the night of the final plague,
mark your doorposts with blood
so the Angel of Death might pass over.

Then we eat bitter herbs to taste the pain of those not
passed by.

And there was a loud cry in the land, for there was
no house where there was not
someone to mourn.

In hope some trace remains,
I run my hands along every doorway
we enter, wondering,
                     Why others and not us?

I know nothing that makes us worthy
of such consideration.
And dread, sometimes, is a darkness
so thick it has me groping at noon. And questions,
sometimes, are all we have left: Like even with all
that could, that will occur, what else is there
                                          except to move forward?

—Jessica Jacobs

(from Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going)

About Jessica

Jessica Jacobs is the author of Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going, published by Four Way Books and named one of Library Journal’s Best Poetry Books of the Year. Her debut collection, Pelvis with Distance, a biography-in-poems of Georgia O'Keeffe, won the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. An avid long-distance runner, Jessica has worked as a rock climbing instructor, bartender, and professor, and now serves as the Chapbook Editor for Beloit Poetry Journal. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown, and is at work on parallel collections of essays and poems exploring spirituality, Torah, and Midrash.
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