The Whole Mishpocha

The kippah clipped to my hair
nags like a tag. I don’t come to daven 
or lean into the ligature of lamed
like a shepherd’s crook,
or wrap myself in the birthday-cake 
blue and white of communal tallit.

I don’t come for the finale,
either, the last Oseh Shalom,
just to say I showed up,
shook hands with the Sabbath bride.

I come for the faces.

En-face or three-quarter profiles
of heads, some balding or
gray locks tucked under kippot,
eyes like my father’s heron blue,
so like my son’s, or the cheeks
of men once flush-faced boys,
now like warm wax, even in winter. 
Women who can’t stand the standing 
who sit, chant, sit.
Here is the whole family,
like a musk ox herd, sheltering.

Nothing suffocates.
My father’s ghost just lets the air in.

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash