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Cleaning for Pesach

by
Cleaning for Pesach featured
 
Cleaning the kitchen for Pesach
yesterday I heard the voices of my 
loved ones who are gone
but whose memories live on 
and return to keep me company.
 
I kneeled to scrub the inside of
the oven and suddenly could smell
the chicken soup and matzah balls 
that my grandmother used to make 
in her apartment in the Bronx
and could hear her whisper 
"A Gooten Pesach" into my ear.
 
Standing at the sink, I washed the racks 
from the oven, and I heard Uncle Nate
telling another joke, just as he used
to do when we stood together at the sink 
after the seder washing and drying 
dishes, glasses, and silverware.
 
I could almost taste the brisket and compote 
Aunt Sylvia used to make, could hear her
complaining as she tested the meat that
it still wasn't done.
 
I could feel the flutter of butterflies in my stomach 
as I remembered standing and asking the Four 
Questions, so afraid I'd make a mistake and ruin
everyone's chances of leaving Egypt and 
escaping to freedom.
 
If I shut my eyes I could almost see Elijah arriving
through the open door to sip the wine overflowing
from the goblet that we set for him in the middle 
of the table.
 
I could feel in my hand the warm coins—two silver 
dollars—that Grandpa gave us for returning the 
afikomen, and I could taste the dry pieces of 
matzah that we saved and ate for dessert.
 
On the night of the seder, after my knees 
stopped shaking, I always felt as if we were 
all wrapped in a cocoon of love that would 
keep us safe years later, long after everyone
else at that table (except for my brother and 
me) were gone.
 
Now it's just the two of us, still cleaning our 
kitchens for Pesach, still hearing the voices of 
those we loved as they return to help us 
celebrate the holiday again.
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Bruce Black is the author of Writing Yoga (Rodmell Press/Shambhala) and editorial director of The Jewish Writing Project. He received his BA from Columbia University and his MFA from Vermont College. His work has appeared in Elephant Journal, Blue Lyra Review, Tiferet Journal, Hevria, Poetica, Reform Judaism, The Jewish Literary Journal, Mindbodygreen, Yogi Times, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and elsewhere. He lives in Sarasota, FL.
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