My Succah Billows

By Rachel Beitsch

My succah billows,
the walls of peach and pomegranate
spread with autumn and spring leaf patterns
that I put up
by myself.

Looking for pins until the sun
was right in my eyes and
all too soon flushing the horizon
as I tied wood to the frame,
I managed
to secure the reddening sheets
with curtain hooks
to the top and sides
by myself.

As the sky waxed auburn-rose,
I shut the stepladder
I’d borrowed from a neighbor
because I was just a head too short
to reach the planked roof
without standing unbalanced on my toes,
and I left the house-away-from-home
untethered,
undecked,
because it was all I could do to sew up
the screw-ups
I’d made when I measured once, cut twice,
against my own good advice,
before the sun sank past the houses
built by harder hands and full of life,
and I went inside to light two candles,
by myself.

And day broke,
and I woke to host
a pair of newlyweds and a young lover
inside my succah,
which billowed and made us wonder
if it could hold any men at all,
and whether my walls had any meaning.
And afternoon winds blew
my succah in and out – like my skirt
when I walked on a Florida beach
among pleasures just beyond my reach –
and invisible eyes on me:
Is this the shelter you built
by yourself?

By nightfall, I made a blessing
under the bamboo
I’d spread over the waving walls
by myself;
separated dark from light,
holy from hollow,
and got out the hooks
and the plaster fruit
and the stepladder
to finish the job.
The sun was gone, and I could see fine
by the bulb on the porch,
which lasted some days after I’d
long since pulled the last edge tight
and closed it with a curtain pin
and hung grapes and pomegranates on strings.
The night swells the space I wrapped
by myself
to let in God and starlight.

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Filed under Issue 1, Poetry

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