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Poetry on the bimah

Poetry On The Bimah June 2020

This poem was written by Wilfrid Noyce after he ascended Mt Everest on May 23, 1953.  But this poem breathes me awake  in June 2020, as we are beginning to just take small steps forward, as we attempt to catch our breaths as the pandemic eases or so we pray.


Heart aches,                          Must look up,

lungs pant                              glasses dim.

dry air                                     Wrench of hand,                                  

sorry, scant,                            faltering limb

Legs lift—                                Pause one step,

why at all?                               breath swings back;

Loose drift,                              swallow once,

heavy fall.                                throat gone slack.

Prod the snow                         Go on

easiest way;                            to far stone;

a flat step                                don’t look up,

is holiday.                                count steps done.

Look up,                                  One step,

far stone                                  one heart beat,

many miles                              stone no nearer

far, alone.                                dragging feet.

Grind breath                            Heart aches,

once more then on;                 lungs pant

don’t look up                            dry air

till journey’s done.                    sorry, scant.

                                                Wilfrid Noyce


Perhaps the mountain we climbed during this pandemic was not  Mt Everest, but the dangers and the stresses were real.  Our hearts ached for one another and for the human beings who struggled in horrible panic and pain to take breath.  We had to keep reminding ourselves not to “look up” which is code for don’t look too far forward into the unknown;  remember to patiently grind out one more breath;  remember not to falter in fear.  We had to remind ourselves to count steps done….was there an easy way?  “Grind breath once more then on…count steps done…one step, one heart-beat, stone no nearer.”  Who was with you when you were dragging yourself along during this time; when you felt helpless, when you couldn’t recognize your own life?  How did you shelter during this time on the mountain?  I often opened Tehillim, the Book of Psalms, which anciently gifts  us with strength for the road.  My soul is quiet, Awaiting G-d.  Psalm 62:2     For with You is the Source of Life, in Your light, we see light. Psalm 36:10     Shiviti HaShem I place G-d always before me.  Psalm 16:8   You are my safe place, my refuge…(You say) I will enlighten you and teach you on which path you should walk; I shall counsel you for My eye is upon you.  Psalm 32:7, 8

Rabbi Stephanie S. Aaron       


Sun, October 1 2023 16 Tishrei 5784