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Visionary Guidance
from Rabbi Nakhman
of Bratslav

Daniel Kraft

Shin (Body as Mezuzah) by Hannah Altman

After Jacob Glatstein


I see you flee from God, friend,

that’s okay, but let Him ride you 

like a speckled horse while you’re running

and if you can’t say thank you for the whip

forgive yourself, let prayer become

your muzzle and the thanks are understood. 

You thought that God was like the delicate 

poached fish you love to eat but God’s 

the fish bone you once swallowed years ago, 

lifetimes, millennia, and you can feel it 

still, forever, stuck inside your throat. 

God’s not the one to whom you pray, 

God is the prayers themselves,

but only when they’re said already and they hover 

over you, after whatever you

or they believed they were has burned away. 

You see, friend, why I’ll try to drown you

if you blabber on again about your God?

God is the great steam train you’re always

missing, and your ticket’s all you have,

however early you arrive at that dreamed-of

station the train’s always already gone, 

maybe the whistle sounds once, fading as it trundles

up the line or maybe that’s only the birds

you hear, you have to ask yourself whether

the train exists, even as waiting for it is

this work you call a life. Ah, friend, 

I’m not your friend, I am a broken mirror, but 

within my shards you see yourself more clearly,

and together we’re the tinted glass through which 

children can watch the sun. I wouldn’t really try 

to drown you. Splash of water, maybe;

memories of water dripping down your chin. 

I’ve come to you because you’re looking for 

a way to lift the longing up and leave it holier 

though no more whole, and you can have all this 

if you will just stop talking about God 

and let your poems fall away like autumn leaves, 

let each word go, no words at all, in fact forget 

you ever spoke, and let your prayers become wordless 

lobotomies and live, friend, in the undomesticated

longing those gone words will leave behind. 

Daniel Kraft

Daniel Kraft is a writer, translator, and educator living in Richmond, Virginia. He holds a master's degree from Harvard Divinity School, where he was a resident at the Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions. Daniel has taught at conferences, synagogues, and museums in North America and Poland, and his work has been supported by residencies, fellowships, and scholarships from institutions including the National Yiddish Book Center, the Community of Writers, and the Glen Workshop. His poems, essays, and translations appear in a number of publications, and he shares translations of Yiddish poetry in his newsletter at

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