Every Tallis I’ve Ever Worn, an Oral History

For thirteen years I never knew
not to wear a tallis
13, my parents
girded me as the rabbi made

air traffic controller signals
sparkling in gold trim and the brightest blue
he lowered his hands, they lowered theirs
and it was done

20 at synagogue, me the only tallised one
My new friends ask if I’m Sephardic
My tallis betrays me. I drop it. I’m
a clean slate waiting to be inscribed

Before my wedding we select
a tallis from her uncle’s shop
he stops us: did we know
her parents already bought me one?

Examining it I find a different tradition
no shining silver collar, no blessing sewn
I put it on. It feels like a cape but still
it feels like I’m crashing

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I wear it. Just then I have no choice. She’s in
a veil, bouquet, a dress that trails
a block behind. She has to gird me in
something. No time for

substitutes. Just then turns into
a month, a year, a decade.
A decade. I find
a tallis in a neglected

drawer, brightest blue and gold trim, my
grandfather’s, bequeathed to me as the only
one who’d ever wear it. I wear it. Just
once, every Shabbos, every day. Not too long

but it doesn’t need to be. A little flashy but
my shul can do with the flamboyance, or
I can anyway. Not a cape but still
it makes me fly.