Eye of the Animal: Kallah Class Poem

Eye of the Animal: Kallah Class Poem

Ash borer caution poster with big craft eye glued on, UMass AmherstWant a ride to the other side

of your vision of me

so you can see who I really am?

Beyond a fanciful procession of animals

entering the ark

bathed in light?

I’m a head that’s one-third eyes

a winged body that can soar

power hides within

I’m eyes of the horse

round and profound

a sense of recognition of things beyond

a crocodile who sees your emotional world

with healing power

and a sense of humour

my leopard’s third eye searches the unknown

with faith and courage

for what will emerge

my cat-black iris and white slit pupil

look out with poise and interest.

There’s nothing to understand

it’s all about eyes

revealing nothing but more eyes

reflecting my searching eye

as you stare back through the deer’s vital eye

into the mythical world beyond

the red circle you thought was sun at sunset

recalls the ball of yarn and the blood

of those lost in the labyrinth

you see the ram fearful and alone

then as brave intermediary

honoured by animal deities

complementary coloured ravens

bring light to the people

as night wakens to day

and day bleeds into night

not everyone has the same vision

the part offered up readily

is a distraction

look to the subtle background.

We long for nature without danger

like a child’s storybook

toddlers and animals with no malice

across a chasm from adults

boy and coyote intermingled

a wondrous shared life energy

a land on which creatures stand

another creature itself

all the earth, God’s sacred mount

I want to stand with her

and take in the beauty and peace

of endless water

so I think about my static suppositions

as the sky turns ominously dark

offering a feeling of comfort.

How can I thank you for all that has been created?

Just a miracle would suffice

but you also create a future.

Yes, I hide my eggs everywhere

my tadpoles bloom in every puddle

I am the leaping, soft mystery of life

you hesitate to touch


Image: photo by Laura Duhan-Kaplan. Detail of a poster warning against the ash borer beetle, onto which someone has pasted a giant craft jiggly eye, now reflecting the photographer.

Poem: Written by members of the ALEPH Kallah class “Animals as Jewish Spiritual Teachers,” July 2018. After studying animals in Torah and midrash, we contemplated artistic images of various animals, and wrote our responses. Each class member contributed a sentence; Laura edited them together.

    1. Thanks, Leora! It was so great to study with this group.

  1. It is beautiful! Thank you for weaving this tapestry with such skill.

    1. Thank you, Jill! Your words that close the poem have so many meanings!

  2. This comment is in response to your class at Aleph Kallah.
    First I was struck by the great need of students for their teachers to hear what they are thinking and feeling. And I was very struck by your great patience to really listen, your presence, and your embrace of your students’ response. Your presence in listening truly embodied relationship, and at least in my experience is quite difficult to accomplish.
    Secondly, in our discussion about animals, how we observe them, how we relate to them brought about an awakening in me about relationship with them and our fellow human beings, who of course are part of the same living network.
    I visited with a PHD nursing home resident who is bit hard to relate to, but when I talked about our class, he was able to respond right away about his love for animals and that was an opening for how in Torah others imagined their relationship to animals. He really found it quite interesting, and I thank you for providing another way to look at our relationship with with animals, and thus bring us closer to each other.
    And finally, I want to thank you for your accepting presence which has led me to look at how I look at others, and also realize how for better or worse how others look at me.
    Looking forward to following your blog.

    1. Sandy, Thank you for these kind words. I’m so glad the class was meaningful for you AND that you brought it into your work. Looking forward to future updates!

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