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Beneath This Ache
is Prayer


Jonah in Analysis

Maya Bernstein

February 26, 2024


Joseph 2.  /Jay Smith/ 

Beneath This Ache Is Prayer 

A Duplex

My body pines for you. Or is the yearning 

my soul’s? Is it my soul’s longing for God? 

Now, the soul generates itself through the longing and the

yearning, Rebbe Nachman says. I wonder 


if yearning streams through time, Rebbe Nachman’s soul momentarily

in my body, my body’s hunger for you 

momentarily something holy, a hungry soul’s 

restless search for a feasting ground. My soul cannot 

find rest. It’s like Noah’s raven, sent from the dry ark into the wet sky

above the pine forest only to return, 

pining for a ledge on which to land, circling, returning – now my feet

are running to escape this soul’s gurgling – 


I’m running from this burbling soul that’s trying to escape – no, I’m running

from you, from my body’s yearning, its longing.

Jonah In Analysis

Chapter 1

No one          said Get up and go
I didn’t           pay the fare
I’m not           the son of truth
I’m full            of doubt

No one           called me

There is no sea           but the past
There is no ship          but the night
There is no wind         but my limbs
There is no storm        but my flight

There is no great fish

Chapter 2

It is so                            dark
           Who                    broke me?
Who   flung me             in        to        the      deep?
           Who                    are                       You?
                         Are                    You?                 Where?

Can I look                     in                        Your                          eyes?
                         Are       You        in          the                 swell, the          wave?
            I want                              to                       move          but                     stay
Please              speak                               to                   me
            I don’t                             know how                   to                       pray



Chapter 3

If I were          to face            my Fear
If I could         get up            and go
If I called        the call           call, If
I could            talk, If             I could
rise up            and graze      and drink
and turn         and back       and fast
and                 will                 I
do it                or                  not do it?

Chapter 4

Though I say I want to
die      still     I       try

to        tie      my-
self      to      some

thing   that   can grow

How else can I learn to tell
my right hand from my left?


Joseph 1.  /Jay Smith/ 

Maya Bernstein

Maya Bernstein’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Adanna Literary Journal, Allium, By the Seawall, the Cider Press Review, the Eunoia Review, Lilith Magazine, Poetica Magazine, Rue Scribe, Tablet Magazine, and elsewhere. She is on faculty at Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership and Yeshivat Maharat, and is pursuing an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. Her first collection is There Is No Place Without You (Ben Yehuda Press, 2022). She serves on the board of Yetzirah: A Hearth for Jewish Poetry.

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