Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Four cups of wine
The following was written by the poet, I. Halpern who lives and writes in Central Islip, New York. Mr. Halpern records books for the New York Braille Institute World Library for the Blind and Seeing-Impaired. He presents his own poetry and conducts workshops for Poetry in the Schools and National P.E.N. Writers in Prison.
Passover Seder at Bedford Hills
Maximum Security Women's Prison, NY
we tried to depart from Egypt with every breath
behind us stood guards with ammo belts to hold up their pants
we are poets and murderers with more crime behind us than usual
what is the "Order" for us?
four glasses of grape juice, some matzohs, bitter herbs
would this make us free?
to climb over mountains
get away from these locked narrow confines
sister poured the first cup
into Styrofoam chalices larger than olives
in the next room it was time for the cell count
names with numbers of resenters of the lash and chain
at one end of our table was some salt water in a glass bowl
near that the guardian matzohs in a pile by the radish root
we were straining to leave Cairo
a the sun forced itself in through bars
welded onto casement windows wired shut
but the light washed in over our tablecloth
sister poured the second cup we dip parsley into the salt water
teardrops around maximum lockup
every exit dead-bolted as we prayed
sister pours the third cup like it was Louis Roederer Crystal
as the Rabbi tells us we must get out of Mitzrayim not Egypt
Mitzrayim means a narrow place
Egypt is our friend today, so we must get out of our narrow place
sister pours the fourth cup like it was Dom Perignon
grabs the horse radish root like it was the neck of an uncooked goose
it is bitter
so damned bitter
as everyone watches everyone else
if anyone knows
how to do their time
Marian Slepian IS a silversmith and Cloisonne enamilist of world reknown. From her work, it is easy to see why she is so respected. And remember- be careful drinking those four cups of wine!
For more about doing work with Jewish prisoners, look here or here.