The word Holy
had lost its way.
It was speaking on a soapbox in the park. People passed by, oblivious.
A few stopped to gawk or jeer.

Only one little boy
stood listening,


“We use that word
in my temple on Shabbos. The rabbi stands, in his ebony robe, in front of
the gorgeous, sculpted bronze doors where the Torahs are.
He raises his arms like a red-winged blackbird and proclaims:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts. The whole earth
is full of His glory.”

Then the organ plays deep tones,
like a train has arrived,
and the people sing,
“Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh…”

I look around.
Has anybody gotten on the train?
It’s left the station
and we’re still standing here.

But something was here for a moment!
Now it’s gone.
What did it mean?
What did it mean?
Later, I spin like a lost dervish
out into the sunlight of the courtyard
that looks down over the city.

Boys my age tug
at the anchors of their parents,
our neckties like kites
longing to fly from our necks,
our grey flannel pants
scratching like hair shirts.

What did it mean? I’m still wondering.
Where was that train going?”


Spinning in a few more years to the university, only one thing there reminds him of the train that was missed.

One weekend his roommate takes him home to his parents’ to study.
Saturday night, they watch
“King of Kings” on TV.

The boy
has never heard that story.
Who is the man in white?
Who is this man
whose name the boy has lip-synched every year in the Christmas-carol program at school
(in a time when children could wear red capes and never even think of superheroes)?

He writes his rabbi, who sends back
an unintelligible sermon he’d given on the movie.

The boy is spinning, spinning,
looking for that train
here, there, in the world
whose merry-go-round
rooms and situations
are dizzying,
and finally, unbearable.

Suddenly, he’s a fish
thrashing on a harsh deck, unable
to process the cruel air.


But a kind hand
lifts him up and places him
in a different kind of water.
Pink! And he is swimming.
And this water gives
a different kind of view.


The light has again drained out of his world. Utter darkness for months.

Now he’s sitting in a room.
The only other person present
is a holy man, speaking to him.

It’s not so much
what the holy man says:
stars and jewels
come out of his mouth, and
soft clouds of kindness. They go
into the young man. He
does not feel himself filling, but soon

he watches as stars and jewels
start pouring out of his own mouth.

The two
sit finally in silence,
sparks of the same
divine flame.


Back into the crazy world,
the big amusement park world,

everything so utterly improbable, yet
arguing in its solid bulk, “Yup, I’m real!” Improbable and


Now the young man is only a pink heart
breathing light.

He thinks of the holy man again.
What he was like. How do you say it?
You can’t. But he tries:

heavy and light at the same time.


But once you know,
how do you tell people
they are holy?

Now, in some realm of eternal return,
the boy stands once more
before the word
as it speaks from the soapbox in the park.

He walks up to the word
in its faded, dusty suit,
taking its hand:

“You can’t,” he says.
“You can’t tell them.
You have to be it.”

“The train will come for them,
it comes for everyone sooner or later.
There’s no other way for them to get
past a certain point.
They’ll recognize you
when they’re ready;
come down from your box.
And just live.”

The word Holy
takes his hand
and follows him down.

image: queenofwords