A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

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"Why I Say Davven" by David Ebenbach

Why I Say Davven

To pray is to have too many vowels in your mouth,

to start with the lips and tongue and then lose the idea

to your breath. Whereas to davven, the same idea but

in the Yiddish, is to feel the tongue hold the breath,

to feel the teeth hold the lip, to feel the thrumming

of your questions, your sometimes angry desperation,

fall into the well of your throat, hum into the chest.

And so the whole body begins to sway, the head turning

like a horse’s does, nervous in the stable, the waist

twisting and bending, the vibration caught at the root

of the body, unable to ascend, to leave us behind. No—

we, the penitent and demanding, are flesh. And if

the davvening is going to succeed, to reach its place,

it will have to lift us with it.

David Ebenbach

David Ebenbach is the author of the poetry collections We Were the People Who Moved (Tebot Bach, winner of the Patricia Bibby Prize, 2015), Some Unimaginable Animal (Orison Books, 2019), and What’s Left to Us by Evening (Orison Books, 2022). He is also the author of a non-fiction guide to the creative process called The Artist’s Torah, three short story collections, and two novels. His books have won such awards as the Drue Heinz Prize and the Juniper Prize, among others. He has a PhD in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA in writing from Vermont College, and he teaches creative writing at Georgetown University. You can find out more, if you like, at davidebenbach.com.



David Ebenbach