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Capoeira or Kapara (an excerpt for Yom Kippur)

At Capoeira, students’ uniforms gleamed white, just like my lace dress for prayer.

“Be aware, not afraid,” Rabbi spoke. “Our songs’ words too once belonged to slaves.”

On Yom Kippur, our hands stretched out, like capoeiristas begin.

“Never take your eyes off,” Mestre says.

Kol Nidre filled up empty bellies, inviting all to a second chance.

In smooth, slow steps, I crouch and slide and sweep, not asking mistakes to hide.

Tired stomachs grumble to remind us

Like my arms and legs, all hearts, too, can ache.


“Capoeira,” I hear stories from an older time.

“Kapara first,” bowed heads next to me remind.

Candles’ wicks and words cast light for those pushed from here to there

Still we fast in Israel, free to make the streets stand still.

I’ll never forget, which word is which and reach to brush away my hair.


Soap cleared from sweat, Mestre’s words are still sweet and tucked into my bed.

“I want to know-” Mestre asked.

“Not just a dance, a fight, a game,” I said.

“Not what, but why Ka-poo-AY-ra?”

Atop my pillow, Ima asks. “What else?”

“For three things,” Rabbi said

“Yes, three things,” she repeats.

“He told me them again in an accent somewhat strange.”

Different teachers speak to us from different places.

I continue, “Eyebrows raised, Mestre moved forward and back to the rhythm of the drum.”

“Ka-poo-AY-ra,” Ima said.

“Ka-pa-Ra,” we repeated so my heart could see my feet.

Mestre moved side to side concerned more with my steps than his win.

“Ka-poo-AY-ra,” he repeated.

Ima now stands at the bedroom door.

“Kapara. Act for forgiveness.” I inhale, exhale three deep breaths followed by closed eyes.

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