Jessica Jacobs

Perseverance Prayer

“There is no one who has not their hour and no thing that has not its place.”
—Pirkei Avot, 4:3

Be it rug or couch or bed, the dog
can’t help but turn and turn and turn again
before lying down, his angle always

a little off, the vantage never
quite as desired. Still the ritual persists.
Yet once in a prairie gone tall

with summer, high grass whispering
with afternoon breeze, he began—one, two,
three times around—and the stalks found

new joints with each of his orbits, swaying,
kneeling, prostrating away from him into
a massive golden wreath, an ideal bed.

A pursuit others call pointless is often just
the right action in need of its right place.

Ars Poetica

“‘The intentions in a person’s heart are deep waters, but a person of understanding can draw them out.’…
So was Joseph deep, and Judah came to draw from him.”
—Tanhuma Yashan

In a land and language not his own,
Joseph made the best of what he’d been given:
his royal robes more costume than clothes,
he wore illusion as if it were identity.
Yet within him, a well brimmed
with living waters, which he could draw from
only in service of others. Exiled from himself, he was always thirsty.

Standing before this powerful man, this
presumed Egyptian, unaware it was
his brother Joseph, before Judah spoke,
he listened. There were the pronouncements
of Joseph’s mouth but also—because
without our knowledge or consent, our bodies
bend toward truth—the more honest
messages of his movements.

Only with such attention could Judah
summon the stone from the mouth
of the well, could he offer a story of their family’s
travails in such detail an entire camp rose
to busy the palace floor: decades of cooksmoke
blackening the vaulted ceiling, his brothers
aging to men before his eyes, his father’s
hair draining to white over vision
dimmed by grief for the lost son who
now listened transfixed to these images
that twined his spine like a length
of rope, bucketing up all the questions
swimming silently inside him, bringing water
from his eyes, his voice to the surface, so he was able,
finally, to answer this story with his own.

The right words ready as pail, cord, and winch
to draw out even the deepest waters.

Jessica Jacobs is the author of Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going, a memoir-in-poems of love and marriage, winner of the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry and one of Library Journal‘s Best Poetry Books of the Year, and Pelvis with Distance, a biography-in-poems of Georgia O’Keeffe, winner of the New Mexico Book Award and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Chapbook Editor for Beloit Poetry Journal, Jessica lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown, with whom she co-authored Write It!, a collection of writing prompts from Spruce Books, an imprint of Penguin/RandomHouse. She is the founder of Yetzirah, an organization for Jewish poets, and unalone, her collection of poems in conversation with the Book of Genesis, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2024. She is an advisory editor for Anacapa Review.