Various and Sundry Poetry

Yom Kippur at Whitefish Lake

It came surreptitiously, the rain. I was riding along on bike
but didn’t feel its first dewy suggestion, my eyes trained,
instead, on the lake to my left, an oval of water flirting at me
between thick alpine trees. I was looking for a path
to the shoreline. It was Yom Kippur, and there was bread
in my pocket to cast away, there were things to get rid of,
my heart full of its own weight. Eventually, a detour
came into view, a state park with a campground and possibilities
for fishing, and I swung off the road and slowed for the loose
bits of gravel it turned into. The lake was pure silence,
the wind on hiatus, the water still save an almost
microscopic lapping. This was the kind of day God gives you
when you need it most, a scene of benevolent neutrality,
a lack of any resistance other than your own, and I saw how little
it took for grief to rise to the surface, how quickly
the lake disassembled me. My eyes filled up with everything
I didn’t know the words for. My lungs beat out apology
after apology until there was nothing left but forgiveness.
A bird passed overhead so close I could hear the thready flap of wings,
and I knew it was time to scatter the remainder of the year’s offenses,
unclamp the guilt from my hands. I gave it everything I had,
wound my arm back like a practiced pitcher,
felt every sticky deficiency hiding in its tough shell,
the regrets posing as minor-keyed stoicism,
all the ways I have fought against surrender and courage
and lost, the needles I have poked into my own conscience,
the tendons of faith I have ravaged open, all of this I flung
into the water, and it landed with a tinny plink two dozen
yards away, rippling the lake enough to send the far-off dock
into a brief lilt. I felt an echo of wetness on my sleeve,
and looked down to see thin drops had polka-dotted my sweater.
I tilted my head back and a constellation of rain tickled my face,
and I stayed there until I had returned to the soft, familiar body
I had remembered loving once,
until I was washed clean.