Footfalls of Memory – A poem for Parsha Matot-Masei (Aliyah 4)

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And they were called with names of the names of the cities they built.

Numbers 32:38

I am lucky enough to have just returned from vacation
in egregiously beautiful cities so rich with history
I’m almost embarrassed to live in California where
we’re barely a week old, and drying up so fast
no one can guarantee the roots you put down will thrive.

Let me show off a bit with names like Savannah
named for a tribe of people whose land we built on top of.
Whose streets are called after people such as Oglethorpe
who sketched out grids and squares for people to
lay a town around. All sitting in Georgia, named

for a king who never crossed the ocean to see
what had his namesake. Or, even older, Charleston,
named after yet another King who also never
came to dinner. Or Asheville (and full disclosure,
I had to look this up) named after, yet another

eighteenth century figure . . . Samuel Ashe, who
had the decency to set foot on the property.
The ancient Israelites did it backward (or perhaps
we’ve been doing it wrong this whole time) and
took the names of the cities they occupied.

I realize occupied is a touch word, but it’s the
first one that came to mind and, honestly,
I’m not sure I mean much by it. I can only hope
someday they rename my neighborhood Lupertville.
Or at least put up a plaque to indicate what was done here.

Which leads me to the point – What are we doing here?
Do our names on places erase the history of who came before?
What is the statute of limitations on memory?
May my actions forever be worthy of the ground I walk on.
May I never forget the names of those who came before.

These poems are offered free for your enjoyment. If you use them as part of an event, meeting, educational or liturgical setting, please consider tipping the author.

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