By Marge Piercy

The courage to let go of the door, the handle. 
The courage to shed the familiar walls whose very 
stains and leaks are comfortable as the little moles 
of the upper arm; stains that recall a feast, 
a child’s naughtiness, a loud blattering storm 
that slapped the roof hard, pouring through.

The courage to abandon the graves dug into the hill, 
the small bones of children and the brittle bones 
of the old whose marrow hunger had stolen; 
the courage to desert the tree planted and only 
begun to bear; the riverside where promises were 
shaped; the street where their empty pots were broken.

The courage to leave the place whose language you learned 
as early as your own, whose customs however dan-
gerous or demeaning, bind you like a halter 
you have learned to pull inside, to move your load; 
the land fertile with the blood spilled on it; 
the roads mapped and annotated for survival.

The courage to walk out of the pain that is known 
into the pain that cannot be imagined, 
mapless, walking into the wilderness, going 
barefoot with a canteen into the desert; 
stuffed in the stinking hold of a rotting ship 
sailing off the map into dragons’ mouths,

Cathay, India, Siberia, goldeneh medina2 
leaving bodies by the way like abandoned treasure. 
So they walked out of Egypt.3 So they bribed their way 
out of Russia under loads of straw; so they steamed 
out of the bloody smoking charnelhouse of Europe 
on overloaded freighters forbidden all ports—

out of pain into death or freedom or a different 
painful dignity, into squalor and politics. 
We Jews are all born of wanderers, with shoes 
under our pillows and a memory of blood that is ours 
raining down. We honor only those Jews who changed 
tonight, those who chose the desert over bondage,

who walked into the strange and became strangers 
and gave birth to children who could look down 
on them standing on their shoulders for having 
been slaves. We honor those who let go of every-
thing but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought, 
who became other by saving themselves.

haggadah Section: Maggid - Beginning
Source: Poetry Foundation