Jewish tradition holds that washing your hands when leaving the cemetery prevents the Angel of Death from following you.
Hard to believe a few drops
can keep death contained,
allow me to exit the valley of the shadow
without being trailed. In line at the spigot,
I wait my turn (just to be safe).
Who hasn’t, at one time or another,
performed a rite (just to be safe).
When endangered we act to appease—
how many hamsot did we hang in your room: three? four?
each one bigger than the one before.
Red threads tied around wrists,
amulets hanging from necks,
what more could we do?
You even changed your name.
Together we would force
the evil eye to shift its gaze.
Yet, here we are.
After unlatching the gate,
I rinse my hands (just to be safe).
In memory of Shiri Rahamim (1984 – 2015)
Jane Schapiro is the author of the poetry books Let the Wind Push Us Across (Antrim House, 2017), Mrs. Cave's House (chapbook, Sow's Ear, 2012), and Tapping this Stone (WWPH, 1995), and the nonfiction book Inside a Class Action: The Holocaust and the Swiss Banks (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), selected for the Notable Trials Library. Her work has appeared in The American Scholar, The Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, and The Women's Review of Books. Her website: www.janeschapiro.com/