Before Rosh Hashanah
Anne Whitehouse
In memory of
William Solomon

The Ark opened like a book.
Inside were three scrolls.
He slipped off their silver ornaments
like a man unclasping a necklace
and lifting it from his wife's neck.  

He carried them home
in a drawstring canvas bag
so no one on the street
would suspect what he had,
and covered the kitchen table
with an old oilcloth;
retrieving polish and rags,
he bent to his task,
one foot hooked over the chair rung,
the other set on the floor.  

He rubbed all the silver until it shone
and rubbed it again,
removed the black tarnish,
revealing a new skin,
supple and shiny,
with a bright reflection off the crowns
and breastplate of each Torah,
the yads ending in little hands
with pointing index fingers,
the "pomegranates"
embellishing the curved handles.  

He did this year after year
before Rosh Hashanah,
and no one knew
not even the rabbi.
His was a private devotion
performed by a bachelor
with the meticulous care
of a housewife.

Anne Whitehouse

is the author of poetry collections: The Surveyor's Hand, Blessings and Curses, Bear in Mind, and One Sunday Morning. Her next collection, The Refrain, is forthcoming this year from Dos Madres Press. Her novel, Fall Love, is available free as an ebook from Smashwords and Feedbooks. She was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, graduated from Harvard College and Columbia University, and lives in New York City.

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