Thoughts Like This
I followed the Baal Shem Tov to his place
in the woods and heard his prayer.
But when I tried to say it I spoke only profanities.
That’s how it is with my kind: our own body betrays us
our own tongue turns us in to the authorities.
I followed him home from the synagogue and peeked
through the window while he lay with his wife.
They spoke a language I couldn’t understand
and they did things that shamed me.
I whispered a piece of the prayer
but God and I both knew it would do me no good.
That’s how it is with my kind:
we want to give our father everything
he has dreamed for us, our whole triumphant soul
with all its wisdom, and there we stand
at the toilet unable to pee.
The Baal Shem Tov sits in the next room writing.
His brain leaks thoughts like this but his pen
transforms them into law and history.
Michael Pearce’s stories and poems have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Threepenny Review, The Yale Review, The Sun, Epoch, Nimrod, Conjunctions, and elsewhere, and have won national prizes from New Ohio Review, Dogwood, Oberon, among others. His collection of poems, Santa Lucia by Starlight, won the Brighthorse Prize in Poetry and will be published in 2021. He was for several years Director of Cognition Exhibits at the Exploratorium, the San Francisco science museum. He lives in Oakland, California and plays saxophone in the Bay Area band Highwater Blues.