American Life in Poetry: Column 370
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
Here’s a fine poem about family love and care by Janet Eigner, who lives in Santa Fe, New
Mexico. You can feel that blessing touch the crown of your head, can’t you?
When Isaac, a small, freckled boy
approaching seven, visits us for Family Camp,
playing pirate with his rubber sword,
sometimes he slumps in grief,
trudging along, his sacrifice and small violin
in hand, his palm over his chest,
saying, Mother is here
in my heart. Before he leaves for home,
we ask if he’d like a Jewish blessing.
Our grandson’s handsome face ignites;
he chirps a rousing, yes, for a long life.
We unfold the prayer shawl,
its Hebrew letters silvering the spring light,
hold the white tallis above his head,
recite the blessing in its ancient language
and then the English, adding, for a long life.
Isaac complains, the tallis didn’t
touch his head, so he didn’t feel the blessing.
We lower its silken ceiling
to graze his dark hair,
repeat the prayer.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org),
publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of
Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Janet Eigner, whose most recent book of poetry is What Lasts is the Breath, Black Swan Editions, 2012. Reprinted from Cornstalk Mother, Pudding House Publications, 2009, by permission of Janet Eigner and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
American Life in Poetry ©2006 The Poetry Foundation
This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.