God is so hot right now
At the oofroof I wrap tefillin and,
cloaked cozy in my bar mitzvah tallis,
am asked to perform the coveted honour
of hagba, raising the Torah above my head,
spread wide and naked, for all to see.
7:30 in the morning, at a shul far from home,
I wrap straps of leather around my head,
around my bicep, arm, hand, and fingers,
making sure they are tight enough
to leave a mark (even now, hours later).
With the phylacteries draped and hanging,
I mustn’t have impure thoughts. Though I do:
memories of being a teen, joining the other boys
in the early morning concentration, taking off half
a shirt to wrap and be wrapped in leather.
I centre myself by folding a prayer shawl
around my shoulders, bringing together
the knots and strings that fringe its four corners.
The fabrics are redolent of my own history,
And even the shmata factories of our past.
My brother and his wife-to-be ask me
to serve the difficult but sought-after role
of raising the holy scrolls of the old testament
to the heavens, opening it for the congregation
to see, to sing to, to bless, to be blessed.
In the anointed room of lights and memoriam,
of stained glass and old men, I wrap leather
around my skin, pressing and ripping into me,
into my forehead, my forearm, my frame,
my muscles, my flesh, my memories.
I wrap cotton around my torso,
pulling corners over shoulders,
feeling edges on my neck.
Breathing deeply through my nose,
I remember who I was and am.
I grip the scrolls of animal skin
and—like a lever—I pull down to lift up
the wisdom, heavier than expected,
the words of past and present, and
perhaps the future. I wonder.
At the oofroof I wrap myself in tefillin,
I wrap myself in my tallis,
I wrap myself in memories,
I wrap myself in family,
and I raise the words for everyone to see.
More and Other
The less we interact with our senses,
The more we are barred from the present,
The more we are living in pasts and futures,
Which can’t exist beyond our heads.
So lips, please go on feeling,
Tongue, please don’t stop tasting,
Smells, please keep remembering,
And hands, please hold some hands.
OSHER LEE is a high school teacher turned graduate student living in Montreal. He studies the way the internet impacts young people, their learning, and the environment. Lately, his favourite poets include Leanne Simpson, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Billy-Ray Belcourt, and Maggie Nelson.
Copyright © 2019 by Osher Lee. All rights reserved.