Friday, August 25, 2017

Two more 1999 poems from Israel

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yae Bashem

I had coffee this morning with Cherry, who is newly back from time in Israel. I asked her, as I ask everyone newly back from Israel, if she had been to Yae Bashem?

Yae Bashem is the Holocaust memorial up on a hill in Jerusalem.

One of the things there is a children's memorial to the one and a half million children who died in the Holocaust. In that hall there are a small number of candles lit behind a glass wall and a complicated series of mirrors that reflect those real candles a million and a half times. I took that for granted because Israeli's wouldn't say it about dead children if it wasn't true. The rest of the memorial, broken pillars in front, shoes of victims in one hall, walking above a map of the all life-altering.

I wrote two poems about that experience in 1999 and shared them with Cherry. I share them with you as well.

Visiting the Children's Memorial at Yae Bashem

In an ancient land of broken pillars,
snapped by wars, long smothered by
      Time's debris,
these were splintered most cleanly,
And their brokenness breaks my
      heart in three.....

Break my heart, for this shimmering landscape
of eternal pain--loss of childhood's dream.
Break, my  heart--the many mirrors' reflection
reveal our Souls more twisted than they
in sunlight--outside--beyond
      candle glow.

Break a third time--only
       broken hearts redeem.

I scarcely breathe--my
    breath may blow the candles out
or else fan them into revenging
nothing could ever quell: All God's
nor our pity can pay
      these infant's claims.

In thick and gathered darkness
    I straddle
their Universe to the limits
    of sight.

Wholly Innocent--holy suffering:
dying to prove that Evil's
grasping Might
cannot reach them, cannot
put out this Light.

Coming down from
Yae Bashem

Soul gutted as wadis gut the desert,
I ride in silence, deep within
the rocky, arid heart.

Yae Bashen--the syllables hang
in the air
like incense buring
in the Third Temple that is not.

Like the smell of flesh singed
and the odor
of rotting intentions--
the incense curls up
to the God who
seemed not to care
when her children died
in piles of flesh
mountains of bones.
Rachel wails again,
keening her lament
for no one to hear.
Yae Bashem--the words
fall somewhere between
a lament and heaven's resignation.

Some tears cannot be seen
nor crying heard
in the dark shadow
of the forgetting.

Coming down from Yae Bashem
I see these things:
    and old woman wrapped
     in her shawl,
     beating her rug as if
     getting it clean would
     bring Messiah. I love her.

Two old men--doubtless
veterans of some war...
comrades, dear friendsk--
lunching on a balcony
taking turns drinking
from a tall brown bottle
of beer. I love them.

A child of eight or nine,
unselfconsciously flipping
back her raven hair
(so dark it drinks in
the sun and shines it back again).
The breeze up from the valley
catches her hair
and she looks as if
she could fly. I love her.

A young man,
pale as the desert rushing
through traffic --
black coat trailing like
a tail, curling locks
bouncing by his chin--
no doubt hurrying
breathlessly to study Torah.
And I love him.

These things I saw, coming down
from Yae Bashem.

Perhaps when I've seen more
life (and loved some more)
I can

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.