I thought I knew the world
that I would always embrace my sons, my girls, my family, my friends
without invisible barriers—freely, with love.
I thought I knew my country
our leaders who spoke from above us
only to help us rise to meet them, to soar.
I thought I knew the people,
the white, black, the yellow, the red
and every shade in between
as we locked arms, no one pulling ahead,
but pushing forth together.
I thought I knew the promise
the one my parents received as they stepped upon the shores
where I would have my birth,
as they gazed upon the torch, a little chipped now,
a little grayer after the storms.
I thought I knew our leaders
who would always do what was right,
trust in the science and not the money
trust in the worth of every man instead,
every woman, every child.
Yes, I thought that eventually we would all do the right thing.
I still think it.
Shirley Russak Wachtel
September 27, 2020 (Erev Yom Kippur)