BY: Leila Bilick

In the yeshiva, button-downed boys on one side,
girls in skirts that touch their ankles on the other,

the teenagers rock forward and forward, hopeful
young trees in a single-minded wind, singing:

Al tashlicheini milfanecha
Don’t cast me away from before you

Singing: desire us, consume us and be
consumed toward wholeness, belly of the whale

Faith is hunger feeding itself, a sea forever
filling emptying filling

Ruach kodshecha al tikach mimeni
Your holy spirit – don’t take it from within me

They were taught the neshama lives beyond the body but
here it is! enlivening groin, breastbone, back of the brain

Fists pound the prayer, spray of blood
from the pomegranate’s liberated fruit

They are deep inside begging
to go deeper still

In the gymnasium-turned-sanctuary
oneness seeking oneness

Years later –
make me a clean heart, renew my spirit

fingertip tracing photos like depressions
on a cave wall, I will understand desire

as arrival, the reward in the reaching
I don’t warn them

for if they know
they will already be on the other side of longing

Leila Bilick’s poetry has been published in Soundings East and The Merrimack Review. She has an MA in English from UMass Boston, and works as a grant writer. She hails from the East Coast but is slowly and surely making Los Angeles her home. She has two daughters.