Prayer in a Bomb Shelter

Walking through Jerusalem I marveled
at the old built alongside the new
ancient history grafted against modern skin

When we reached the shul they told us
it was an old bomb shelter. Modest and meager
they had fluorescent lights in the sanctuary

a screen of curtains between the men and women
wall-mounted fans oscillating back and forth
an old safe holding the Torah scrolls safe inside

We prayed. I was invited to the alter-of-sorts
where the rabbi stood over the splayed scroll
and I read the aliyah, the blessings before the reading

it means going up. Aliyah. An ascent
but now bomb shelters aren’t synagogues
and instead of going up, people go down

they bow their heads not in supplication
but in fear, little arms wrapped around tiny ears
shaking knees held close to trumpeting hearts

as the rockets whirl overhead
sirens sounding in harmony
a single scream as explosions bring angels to their knees


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