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Monday, June 08, 2020


by Corey Weinstein

    at the foot of Sinai

Meandering through our sheltered lives of isolation
A fortnight and forty nine mark the days of our trek
Weeks weeping with news, sidewalks burdened by tents
Safer than starving migrant workers tramping home
More generous than gang youth herded into gladiator pits
Than daughters crying goodbye through computer screens
This trudge of my safety through a retreat of comfort
I look to those who have endured decades locked
down in eight by ten concrete and steel tombs
They at my right arm of justice, left of compassion
My teachers of confinement, five decades at their knee
Bang on my pipe, whisper somethings into my vent
Fly me a kite on a string through others’ hands
Design my program from wake up to bed down
Rise for tea and slow stretch and slower meditation
Gratitude, healing, love, praise, respect for the elders
Eat, walk, write, trash, eat, read, tidy, rehearse, eat,
dishes, news, read, TV, lockup, gray head weekly shop
Make sure the canteen is paid up and shelves are full
Decaf black, Rooibos, Hawthorne, Lemon Verbena
Sleepy Time, chocolate, hummus, cabernet—the essentials
Make sure the letters are written, calls made, people loved.
Boredom, comfort and routine seem too much the same
As the new moon brings us cowering to the foot of Sinai
We descendants of Noah through Shem enter full footed into
hallways of the breathless dying, and acres of coffin digs
More black men officially murdered, again and again
Exploding into the rage of youth, of those left further behind
How can we find the radiance borne of inner wisdom, of hope
Of gratitude or new knowledge, of being touched by the ineffable
We cover up while societies are unmasked, still and always
Worse for the worst off, and not so good for me either.

Corey Weinstein is a retired physician who works for the human rights of prisoners. He is founder of California Prison Focus that advocates for prisoners in long term solitary confinement. He has published two CDs of music largely inspired by the klezmer and Yiddish stage musical traditions and has written and produced a play in song staged in 2016 in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the massacre at Babi Yar. His poetry has been published in Jewish Currents, Vista and Byways, and Forum (City College of San Francisco).