The Small Siddur

Netanel Miles-Yépez

after the death of his son

reb levi yitzhak they say

prayed from ‘a small siddur’*

 

he was known for his long prayers

taking his time to warm them up slowly

to make a fire bold out of old dry wood

 

but in the year of his grief he could not

hold that dense book of profound gratitude

too heavy for so heavy a heart broken

 

perhaps he wound them up quickly that year

or maybe he didn’t even pray to the taking-god

giving in return only a small ungrateful siddur

 

but i think he merely forgot his prayers

forgot how to pray for anything in the absence

of the one thing that made them worthwhile

 

lost in a lethean river-wash of sorrow

there were no prayers to be said because

there was no reb levi yitzhak to say them

 

not as he had ever been or known himself to be

lost to himself afloat on a bark in that river known

only to the living who’ve known the death of a love

                        the ones who make the silent prayer of the dead

 

* Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev was one of the most beloved of all the masters of the Hasidic tradition, known for his great compassion and joy, as well as his powerful prayers. But in the year of his son's death, the Hasidim say that "he prayed from a small siddur" or prayerbook.