The Carboard Cathedral (A Traveler’s Prayer)

December 22, 2006

I live in a warehouse with visual artists, many of whom are screen printers. We have this lovely print lab that I’m hoping to become more acquainted with in an upcoming project: a collection of poems celebrating and suffering the qualities of semi-permanence, entitled The Cardboard Cathedral. My painter friend and housemate Nate Crane has generously offered to do the cover illustration, which I will hopefully print in small editions. I am not sure which is more difficult, crafting the title poem or deciding what other works to set in orbit around it.

Recently, I’ve been enjoying a Blog on Jewish Poetics run out of my former home of Chicago. I stumbled across this blog while searching for Yehuda Amichai poetry in the original Hebrew a few weeks ago and it’s been keeping me great company ever since. Many thanks to authors E.M. Sellinger and Norman Finkelstein for generating this inspiring resource.

I am a big fan of local Oakland poet Chana Block who has translated much of Amichai’s work and read with great pleasure her essay on the challenges of capturing the nuances of religious/ritual observance in translation-a problem am only too sensitive too whenever I attempt to write about my orthodox Jewish upbringing or complicated relationship with my faith.

This poem is purposely a mixture of contrasting theo-spacial connotations but is heavily inspired by the Traveler’s Prayer which observant Jews traditionally recite at the beginning of a journey. I’m thinking about taking this theme further. So to speak. (so as not to be a plagiarist, the second to last line was adapted from a quote by R. Cohen in a recent post on above mentioned blog)

The Cardboard Cathedral

When you find yourself enveloped
in a cardboard cathedral
Here is a prayer:
Summon a vision of perfection
Get supplicant with the
Pliant flaps
That need to fold exact
ly in the sensical way that
sort-of seals
the contents inside
do it with a logician’s eye
and barring that try an
addled refrain of “shits” and “fucks”
to make them behave

Corrugation, creases, clerestories.
When satisfied, circumambulate the space
Graffittiying the walls with the
Brail names of states.
Get tabernastical, hefting your
Self onto your back
And dressing the holy mess
With packing tape.
There is always a crack-that’s
how the light gets in-
Bless the work of your hands.


One Response to “The Carboard Cathedral (A Traveler’s Prayer)”

  1. abbyg said

    PS. My dear friend Frank, “Tabernastical” is for you.

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