Imagining Passover

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Cleaning for Passover

The moment Passover cleaning begins
dust swirls like the grains of sand
that swirled beneath our feet
as we fled Egypt.

The vacuum cleaner roars
like the roar of waves
at the Reed Sea
when the water parted
to let us cross.

And we rush to get ready
for another Passover
just as we rushed centuries ago
toward safety
before Pharaoh’s men
could slay us.

In the distance
we can hear Miriam still
singing her song of freedom
and we remember the way
she and the women
danced with timbrels
echoing on the shore.


I dream of matzah and bitter herbs, of
gefilte fish, matzah balls, and salt water,
of tears and the sea divided in half
with a narrow path for us to follow.

I dream of hearing timbrels and voices,
of women singing, of weeping children
who want to go home while their mothers
dance by the sea in the chill night air
drunk on the taste of freedom.

I dream of Elijah the Prophet sipping from
his cup of wine beneath a fig tree in the Land
of Israel with my brother and niece and sister-
in-law who flew there for the holiday.

I dream of white tablecloths and the wine-stained
pages of haggadot from other seders, of had gad yah
and let my people go, of four cups of wine, of a broken
piece of matzah called the afikomen, which my father
always used to hide until after we finished our meal.

I dream of dreaming at my grandfather’s table and
of feeling butterflies in my stomach before I have to
stand to recite the Four Questions, knowing the story
can’t continue until I utter the words “Why is this night
different?” and that my people cannot be free until I open
my mouth and begin to speak. I dream of the future.

I dream our future depends on me.


After six days of matzah
I want to shout
Dayeinu, enough!

Enough dry crumbs
spilling on the floor,
a sea of crumbs

through which we have
to wade our way
to freedom.

Enough bitter herbs
and gefilte fish,
enough soup and
matzah balls,
enough macaroons
and sponge cake.

I dream of bagels
and pizza, bowls of
pasta, pastries, loaves
of bread.

I am lost in the desert,
unsure which way to turn,
or if the journey will ever
end, or if we’ll find our way
to the promised land,
or if God even remembers us

or if He listens to our prayers
or if our fate is in his hand or
ours, if our future is foretold
or something we make day after
day as we take another step
into the unknown.

It’s only one more day before
we can return, changed, to where
we began, the same place
only different.

Bruce Black is the author of Writing Yoga (Rodmell Press/Shambhala) and editorial director of The Jewish Writing Project. He received his BA from Columbia University and his MFA from Vermont College. His poetry and personal essays have appeared in Soul-Lit, The BeZine, Poetica, Atherton Review, Elephant Journal, Blue Lyra Review, Tiferet Journal, Hevria, Jewthink, The Jewish Literary Journal, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and elsewhere. He lives in Sarasota, FL.