Barbara Pelman


Maybe in the morning light we pray
and rain falls and we lift to its falling
as if we still had feathers, as if with words
we could scrape the sky clean of every kind of pain.
    — from “False Dawn” by Patrick Lane

It snowed in Victoria, a rare event.
Dawn and the world is full of light,
and the sky, intimations of pink and citron.
The snow muffles the yard, planting secrets
in weighted trees, burdened with white.
A single varied thrush searching the garden
another flash of colour in a muted world.
Hills of snow, extinguishing shape,
summer’s debris of blackberry.
Maybe in the morning light we pray

though our seldom-used words are awkward,
sh’ma yisroael adonai eloheynu adonai echad.
Words we learned years ago and say them now
as if a shortcut to God will work, if
there is a God, and if this God will hear us
and if so, will grant our prayers, and if
saying a brief mumbled prayer can take the place
of long meditation, of deep practice, of good deeds,
while morning lifts the snow—
and rain falls and we lift to its falling

A sign? Some comfort from the lowered sky,
rain—a cleansing, a baptism—
reveals what the snow has covered up
these winter days, scurried us to couches
and books and fire in the fireplace, soup
on the stove and the windows shut tight.
And on the news, fires burn in New South Wales,
ice melts in the Arctic, the oceans rise.
As if we could stuff it all back into Pandora’s box,
as if we still had feathers, as if words

had the power of rain: put out the fires.
The power of snow: build back the glaciers.
The power of dawn: another rainbow, a covenant.
I search for words, the ones that will fly
like the Sh’ma, to places that will listen
to the cries of the children in ghettoes,
the children with bulging bellies,
the children in battered boats, rolling seas.
Which words, Hashem? Raise your still small voice,
scrape the sky clean of every pain.


Note: Hashem is one of the many names of God, one for ‘everyday usage’



Barbara Pelman  is a retired high school English teacher, born in Vancouver and now living in Victoria. She is a frequent participant and assistant at Planet Earth Poetry, the weekly poetry venue. She has three published books of poetry: One Stone (Ekstasis Editions 2005), Borrowed Rooms (Ronsdale Press 2008) and Narrow Bridge (Ronsdale Press 2017), a chapbook Aubade Amalfi (Rubicon Press 2016), and a manuscript to be published Spring 2023 by Caitlin Press. In 2018 her glosa, “Nevertheless” won the Malahat Open Season Poetry Contest. Previously, in 2004 and in 2014, she won the BC Federation of Writers’ poetry contest. Her poems can be found in literary journals and the anthologies “Refugium” and “Sweet Water” (Caitlin Press), and “In Fine Form” (Caitlin Press) as well as on the buses. [provided with the poem “SH’MA: HEAR”]

Skip to content