In honor of the eight-day Jewish holiday that celebrates faith, exodus, and freedom and that begins with a seder at sundown tonight (April 22), we asked a few writers for poetry about Passover, especially for acrostics—poems in which the first letter of each line spells out Passover or Pesach.
Please remember, Children,
As you hunt for leaven and yeast,
Someone who claims that boycotts
Serve the Middle East
Only wants to keep you
Eating the bread of exile
Ramses’ children saved.
–Jonathan Rosen is the author of fiction and nonfiction, including The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey between Worlds and the novel Joy Comes in the Morning.
Prologue to the meal:
A story of
Say a candle-lit prayer
Eat the unleavened bread.
–Linda Pastan is the author of over twelve books of poetry and essays. Her recent collections include The Last Uncle, Queen of a Rainy Country, Traveling Light, and Insomnia.
Poor person’s bread
Crossing Reed Sea
—Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg is director of communications, outreach, programs, and interfaith relations for the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees
—Geraldine Brooks is the author of five novels, including The Secret Chord and People of the Book.
It is 1975, the year before my parents stop speaking,
two years before the police drag him
raving from our door. Old, rabbinical, Uncle Leo
takes his glasses off to gesture,
while on my shoulder my brother softly dozes.
At last, triumphantly, my aunt holds the plate
of offerings aloft. On it a broken eggshell
and the shank bone of a lamb. My father still
is happy; not manic, not depressed.
He stands with an electric carving knife
near the windowsill geraniums
in a shadowed Brooks Brothers suit.
My mother takes off her sparkling
head scarf to kiss him.
From the kitchen drifts the smell
of pot roast and string beans
and sweet potato pie.
It is beautiful and fragile, that instant,
but I can’t keep it from what happens next:
my mother swings the door open to starlight;
my father pours an extra glass of wine.
Dazed, I gulp at my grape juice,
watching the pendulum of the grandfather clock
flicker in the candle’s light. A dish falls
in the kitchen, cracking. Someone curses.
I hear a cough. It grows chokingly quiet,
as though time itself considering
which direction to go next.
My now-dead uncle taps me on the back.
—Pamela Greenberg is the author of The Complete Psalms: The Book of Prayer Songs in a New Translation.