A white flower grows out of concrete pavement

Grace and Defiance: Two Poems Written in Response to Colleyville, TX

by Rabbi Stephanie Crawley

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2022 issue of the Vine.

Rabbi Crawley

For this issue of the Vine, I had imagined my contributions to be poetry on Esther, celebrating her courage and bravery. I played with language around the Purim of my memories, of a world flipped upside down by revelry and irreverence. And then on a Saturday morning in Texas, the world turned upside down once again, when a Shabbat service turned into a hostage crisis. And new words emerged, these two poems you see here.

The first one, “Grace World,” I wrote on the evening of Saturday, January 15th, before the captives had freed themselves. The second, “We are the people of…” has been a piece that has been living inside of me for awhile, inspired by these words of Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo: “Be who you are, even if it kills you. It will. Over and over again. Even as you live.” I wrote this piece as an expression of our defiance. Despite any attempts, historical and contemporary, we will never allow the soul of the Jewish people to be diminished, nor relinquish our commitment to the human project.

Grace World

On some Sunday mornings
my dad would get up early
put on his uniform
and drive to a local church
To direct traffic

And on some Saturday mornings
my dad would get up early
put on his uniform,
and drive to our synagogue
Not to pray
But to stand guard

Sometimes I’d leave services in the middle
To watch him

I saw how his shoulders would tighten
When a stranger passed
When a new car pulled into the parking lot
And then release when they turned around or drove away

The church was called GraceWorld.
They were so lucky to live in that world –
The good grace of only having to worry about fender benders,
of a clogged path of cars on the way out

None of that Grace for our synagogue
Instead, a world of carefully locked entrances
A Sacred fortress

“It could happen here” thought, but never said
It never did –
not to me, not there
Is that all the Grace I can hope for?

We are the people of…

We are the people of the book
Don’t read it all in one sitting,
some of its chapters will break your heart
We will use it to teach you how to live
to break your heart on purpose

We are the people of the tree
Don’t cut us down
Don’t you know what wisdom we contain
We will teach you how
to reach towards the light

We are the people of the garden
Doesn’t matter how far you take us from our home
You will find us flourishing
We will teach you how
to grow in all conditions

We are the people of the air
Don’t tear us apart
You will breathe our shared breath
We will teach you how
To fill it up with song

We are the people of the heart
Doesn’t matter how hard yours is
Our muscle softens as it opens
We will teach you how
to make joy where there is only pain

We are the people of each other
We are the people of the choosing
To be who we are
Over and over again
Even when it hurts us
Even when it breaks us

We will be who we are, over and over again.

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