Featured Poetry

Margaret Bleichman – upon waking

upon waking is a meditative poem describing a hand-washing ritual performed after waking up in the morning, accompanied by a traditional Jewish blessing, al netilat yadayim. Bleichman writes, ‘As we were all so hyper-focused on hand-washing early on in the Covid pandemic, the hand-washing ritual I had done as a child came back to me in this poem.’

upon waking

fill the two-handled metal cup under cool running water
hold it with your awkward hand to remind yourself: this is ritual
pour a little, slowly, over your other loose fist, held over the basin
feel the shape of the stream as it flows first onto your thumb then
divides into rivulets over knuckles turned outward
coasts down the base of your palm turned inward
meets again to drip off the end of your little finger

turn the cup upright give it to your other hand and tip slightly
sense the clear liquid trickle through the hollow of your grasp
and weave around your fingernails
pause here a moment welcome the absence of flow
how the air highlights the memory
of where water has just been

pass the cup back and forth again each hand pours
over the other a second time just as before but never
the same this time it runs off your longest finger
and one stray drop traces the inside of your wrist
before you rotate the cup back up

pour slower now, the third time, you must make do
with what water remains at the bottom of the cup
draw out your breath slowly until the last drop falls
both hands cleansed, all of you now

purified to begin another day
say the blessing softly under your breath
al netilat yadayim

(al netilat yadayim: Hebrew, on washing hands; blessing made over ritually washing hands upon waking )

Margaret Bleichman

Margaret Bleichman is a community activist who writes to effect change. Their writing has appeared in Sojourner and Boston Jewish Film, and the upcoming prose and poetry collection, “Between Us”. They co-created historic same-sex health benefits and a workplace childcare center, and established many STEM programs to engage underrepresented groups. Margie is a software engineer and Professor of Computer Science at Middlesex Community College, and lives in Jamaica Plain, MA.

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