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Tuesday, November 20, 2018


by Roberto Christiano

Magnified and Sanctified be your name.

When I was a young man, full of youth
and ardor and ideals, I took modern dance
at Dance Place in Dance Alley,
Adams Morgan, the Hispanic Section of D.C.

I never was a dancer but I was an actor
and I needed a pliable body to express
my characters.

At the end of every class, Carla Perlo,
our teacher, would say, “May your names
be written in The Book of Life.”

Somehow I suspected my name would not
be on that list, not because I was a gentile,
but because I was unworthy.

But that was when America
was the America of the beautiful
Hippie spillover and such blessings,
while not ordinary, were not extraordinary.

My body is older now,
and will not tolerate modern dance
or even bend to jazzercise,
despite the willingness of spirit,
or the voice of blessing.

I think about The Tree of Souls in the movie Avatar,
a great enormous weeping willow—instead of leaves,
crystal glowing stalactites which turn a most delicate
violet pink in the night. If The Tree of Souls is destroyed,
as it almost is, it will be the end of civilization.

And now I know as I go into Saturday mass,
a week after the Pittsburgh news,
at Our Lady Queen of Peace,
that two miles down the road
at Beth El,  Shabbat is there,
and I hear again the prayer.

And so I pray in the only way I know,
to the crucified rabbi,
with death only a heartbeat away,
and eleven candles lit,
and I sing,
all are worthy. all are worthy here.

May your names be written
in The Book of Life,
May your names be carved
in the bark of The Tree of Life,
May your souls dwell in
The Tree of Souls.

Shabbat Shalom.
Shabbat Shalom.

Editor's note: This Saturday, November 24, marks the one-month anniversary of The Tree of Life shooting. 

Since then, two people were killed and two others shot in El Dorado Arkansas on October 28; two people were killed and three others shot in Vallejo, California on October 30; a woman was killed on November 1 by the same man who killed two men the day before; two people were killed and four wounded in a Tallahassee, Florida yoga studio on November 2; a gunman killed twelve people including a sheriff's deputy and wounded many more at a college bar in Thousand Oaks, California on November 7; three people were killed and another shot at a bar in Globe, Arizona on November 11; three people were killed and one wounded in a shooting at a home in Dunn, North Carolina on November 12; four people were shot and killed in Tsayatoh, New Mexico on November 13; three people died after a quadruple shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on November 14; and four people died on November 17 in 2 separate shootings in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Yesterday, two women and two men were found in a home in Philadelphia with gunshot wounds to the head; a police officer and two other people were killed in an attack at a South Side Chicago hospital; and one person was killed and four others injured in a shooting  in downtown Denver.

Roberto Christiano won the 2010 Fiction Prize from The Northern Virginia Review for "The Care of Roses." He was also a Pushcart Nominee for poetry published in Prairie Schooner. His chapbook, Port of Leaving is published by Finishing Line Press. His poetry is anthologized in the Gavea-Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry published by Brown University.