I. The Great Wheel
The Tree Arm Tapped
The tree arm tapped for me
to come, see, smell, sit, climb
walk under it properly
the pine outside
season after season
a window between
a dry office and a drenching green
and I declined
Love, life is hard to find
one must look behind
lift the leaf, rub the knobs, grasp for
that shaking branch
study the hard ridges like standing armies
sneak on past
trace the root, scan the heights
lean against it
YOU AIN’T SEEN NUTHIN’ YET
It doesn't look like much, these sprouts they hold,
up. What I see seemingly is the same,
in stasis in the winter air. A game,
they play possum, wink at me in the cold,
lazy. They wait for the sun, the rain
to fall, to fill them with chlorophyll. They grow,
the roots stretch down, as the stems push from below,
together, increase. Slowly, steadily, gain
hibernating, invigorating, pull
imperceptibly before my eyes,
nothing that I can gage, measure the size,
as these small things advance—April Fool!
they tarry here, but it is just a guise,
come Spring when I return, how high they rise.
The fragrance of rebirth
The vision of the earth
Reviving with renewed life and vigor
Verdant transformation of yesterday's desolate fields
Magically becoming green, rich and inviting
Dreams of running through the aromatic dew-laden grass of morning
The air is fragrant
FOR TREES ON TU B’SHEVAT
Your roots are literal and you
actually reach for the sky—
Each trunk is a capital “I”—
How peaceful it must be to be
first person singular figuratively!
Even one leaf banishes despair,
(metaphorically speaking, one strand
Of hair)--You never gray, you gold,
red, and brown; and, unlike ours,
season after season yours faithfully
comes back. Fed by lifelines of
centuries-old, lithe and
organically willed-to-live veins,
leaves restore youth every spring.
Take a stand for challenged oaks
is not a command—Even when
gnawed during youth, yes, even if
crippled by long-since-dead deer,
oaks don’t need encouragement;
everyone rises as high as it can.
Adult coiffures become canopies,
only 3% of sunlight reaches kids—
Yet saplings accept what they get,
and, most unlike us, never complain.
Tough love! Yet If they received light
as they’d like, they’d grow too fast and
become deadly-thin. I just read a book
(pages of tree flesh) that asserts roots
talk to each other via vast networks of
underground wires, fungi their go-betweens;
what do they say? “Bagworms are
devouring us! Constellate defenses,
neighbors!” In one word: survive.
Choose life--Brothers, sisters, I am
a tree, you are a tree, long máy we
all flourish and seek sunlight yet!
RAIN STORM ON A THIRSTY LAND
The rain-clouds part and the skies open up,
blue skies after the torrential downpour.
The sun glows and the wet ground glistens;
I think I can hear the earth whisper
aah, now that’s what I needed,
a good strong drink. Give me more!
The waters of the lake rise five centimeters,
more, more water, the rivers gurgle as they flow,
at least another five meters, murmurs the lake.
I still need to pray for rain,
rains of blessing to quench the earth,
to fill cisterns, rivers and lakes,
rains bursting with Heaven’s bounty.
ticker-tape parade thrown by
city park for spring.
THE SEA HAS COME BACK
Three years ago this generous ground
dried up. My beloved, dying,
took the sea with him.
Sunsets drained of color
seeped into wintery nights.
Later, Jerusalem stone built
back some bone-deep hope,
some words slipped back.
Today, the steady patter
of May rain adds rhythm
to the waves rolling in,
the Sound familiar,
alive, sacred again.
WHAT I MEANT
when I saw that sheep
nursing its lamb by the tors of Dartmoor
with its look of modest surprise
on a day without fog
such as I had not expected
while crossing a stony heath
beyond reach of the Romans
(I had seen
under the straight streets of Bath
the remains of history
with unpronounceable names; here
the land had given up men's designs
for the wanderings of sheep
and the detours of streams. The stones
of a moor outlast engineers)
I meant to say
that particular ewe and the quick tugs
of a hungry lamb at her teats
appeared before me more real
than the conflagrations and even
the deaths of this world.
Nothing has ended,
neither the ancient grass nor flocks,
and certainly not our fires of sacrifice.
I meant, I marvel
at my surprise at this good proof
that a ewe and its summer lamb
are here despite events of fire.
Tornado of phlox,
streaming petals that drift near
THE MOON THAT NIGHT
The moon that night
Its reflection dripped over the
Lake spilled onto glowing ridges
Between moon and lake
They yearned to be together
Yet the moon rose farther
By midnight, the moon returned to itself
Nothing new about the moon
For those who hadn’t known
And the lake quietly returned to its darkness
No desire to lap the shore
Nudge the pebbles
—Mindy Aber Barad
Let the sun slip down earth’s shoulders
and the woods grow dark and deep,
Watch the moon rise up on tiptoe
as the birds fly off, to sleep.
Tell the owl to keep the hour
when the stars begin to wink,
Know the deer will find their river
should they need a midnight drink.
Final blue’s gone at the road’s end
and a smoky mauve drifts down,
Comes the silhouette of bat wings
to the disappearing town.
You may view this from a porch step
or on foot while passing by,
You can hear it in thick crickets –
Chart it by the baby’s sigh.
—Cynthia Weber Nankee
END OF THE TIGER LILIES
The tiger lilies' firefall is ended,
That for three-quarters of a moon or more,
Till finally doused by yesterday's downpour,
Had made the back edge of the garden splendid.
All but the topmost trumpets have surrendered.
Untidy blossoms, not one in a score
Symmetrical, made such a fine uproar
That summer’s doom appeared so long suspended.
We're moving now toward a foregone conclusion.
Dahlia centers try to cache the sun,
Marigolds' bitter scent foretells the close,
Zinnias carry on without illusions.
In synagogue the warning note is blown.
The catalogues come out with winter clothes.
DAYS OF AWE
"I have sinned against You, You alone, and have done evil in Your sight." (Psalm 51:6)
I know that I have sinned; You know it, too.
I also know there's little I can say
to justify my deeds, that every day
is night, that every night I sin anew.
This doesn't justify it, but I do
not hear Your voice; I hear a stallion neigh
instead, a ram's loud bleat, a donkey's bray.
But even so, a sinner turns to You.
Upon the ground are animals that crawl
or creep. A little bit above them, though,
are creatures which have learned to fly, like birds
and bats and dragonflies. Above them all
are clouds that block the sky. But even so,
a man who's sinned will sit and write You words.
"The Lord has established His Throne in the heavens and His kingdom reigns over all." (Psalm 103:19)
From where I am, might I return to You?
If coming back is possible, might I
come back to You? If ropes exist that tie
this Earth to something like a Throne, or to
a Scepter You extend that very few
have glimpsed, might I believe I too could try
to gaze up at Your Crown beyond the sky
which separates what's false from what is true?
You know how often I have tripped, You know
how often I have fallen flat; I lie
upon the ground face down and do not see
the sky. Yet even those who lie below
may turn to You, the King who rules on high;
will You, my King, accept a man like me?
Though they might
directly to brown
instead they turn
or yellow as flowers.
is such beauty
to birds or bugs
or a rainbow
to a rabbit
but, oh, to us, to us.
— Sarah Brown Weitzman
The softness of a November day
settles like a glove
around my slowly healing heart.
Dry mists coat grief
with stilled veils of dusty air,
a haze, mercifully wrapping
an all too active mind
in muffled blessings
In darkened buses, low shadows
creep by surreptitiously.
Sleek, dark and feline, they are adept
at evading the inevitable:
the callous trample of winter boots,
the sudden closing of a lid
or door. They are kept
hidden, at bay,
experts at secret existence.
One step ahead
of the racing shadows,
russet and glowing reds spatter
the curtained dais; orange, brown
and golden yellow flung
as if from a madman's brush,
barely have time to acknowledge
the Master's hand; the One
that stipples fragile autumn
with a beauty so intense,
I could cry for its pain.
Port Washington, NY circa 1949
Climbing over the farmer’s fence unseen
I start up the hill path
to reach the crest
and take the whole shock
of that autumn valley
in one surprise
the dogwood’s scarlet spread
the singed ash
elms exactly orange
among the paper birch
one golden oak
now coin silver
apples ruby late
upon the branch
pines that do no turning
as though this quarter meant to hold
all hues of man’s seasons
to full fruit and in between
in this last flamboyant protest
but brought to me stealing
and after-school chores
that bond all may share
But then running through fields
tingling my town legs
past flurries of bees
and brown butterflies
all wooing and winged
like myself I fling
down the hill into apple air
and musk of old baywood
some hand had sawed
from potatoes unearthed
to dry to where
straining against the fence
are the farmer’s four horses.
Not the first untouched crystal
nor spring’s green sameness
nor even summer’s academic freedom
ever pleased me
as much as that October valley journey
in memory now become not journey
but an end.
The farmer died.
His family moved to the city.
That ground soon grew nothing
The horses were sold
—Sarah Brown Weitzman
The Smell of Snow
The sun was leaving as we left the river
the wind slapping and pushing
to climb a trail steep , frail thin as if it would snap
the wind in an angry fit kicking the leaves back and forth
the coyote in its steel winter gray on a distant hill watching us
its eyes like the bores of a gun
We stopped to watch the shadow creep across the hill
and smell the coming snow
the smell that holds all the magical elements of earth and sky
that make you feel the mountain and rock are your very bones
nearby a little house nestled bright and warm
and we wondered which really was our home.
Eighth Day’s a band; eighth night’s a miracle.
Chanukah’s not Jewish Xmas; its core involves
Praising while conveying heaven’s true harness.
In digging, we’re pointed to dry, rocky lanes.
Tilling loam grants no bonuses. More exactly,
Glory’s found in extracting from dark places.
Sharp, hard, hidden deposits hurt – with effort
We plough, formulate for generations unseen,
Tread briars, add unnatural days to our weeks.
Mundane miracles keep oil cups renewed, safe,
Help us preserve the brit, forbidden throughout
Maccabean times, plus incised upon our hearts.
We cry a little, recall wounds last just a lifetime,
Tenaciously reinstate all belief, restore our yoke,
Yank through further detritus, prepare the future.
—KJ Hannah Greenberg
The silver fog of winter
the smooth moss that betrays no dint
stretch sparkling at intervals
with pins of rain. Winter's slow chisel
carves trees into the sky, inducing
no introspection but a far-reaching gaze
into the black bellies of magnolia leaves
at the afternoon's change of guard
in the quiet, humid closure
of December's final days.
In the stillness trembles
the mind's questioning
of the chaste, death-like daze
in which each detail of twig and foliage
takes on a final beauty.
Sterling haze and drip,
evanescence of the drifting soul,
a cozy anguish, un sueno frio
beyond this epitaphic peace.
The sudden wish to flee
to a Norse phalanx forest,
wood shadows armed with gilded tales
shooting past me
indicative arrows of enchantment,
forging quartziferous paths
to springs of certainty.
in a sleeping room of static familiars:
December memory frozen in a frame,
guitar untouched atop the wardrobe,
bookcase of remaindered paperbacks
in silent reproach. Apart from the clock’s
slow numerals, all is a constant tinnitus
unworthy of notice and best ignored.
The window’s a rhombus of pallid air—
a backlit bird with urgent intent
passing too fast to introduce itself,
the entropy of dispersing contrails
expressing a tiring universe destined
to stillness. A stylus wakes the fluid sky—
purposeful people going somewhere.
They say there are plants that need shade to grow
reminds them of the place where they have been,
the secrets inside the seed call out open a screen
on the instructions, there to put on a show
in the garden plot. I look up at the sky,
what lies beyond. I consider the Plan,
the beginning of Everything, Light, Dark, and
that all the things You Created moved and changed
as that Spirit moves me what I see
is a parallel come closer, joins, it blends
and is much alike, coalesces messages sent
similar sounding different, spheres, they agree,
In concert, reflect Creation, sublime, sends
a message of Existence that never ends
And for you who revere His name
And for you who revere His name
A sun will rise
With healing on its wings.
at the Kotel
a woman weeps
into her siddur
a bride blesses
one and all.
The swifts –
pilgrims without borders –
arrive from Africa
signs of the coming spring.
—Felice Miryam Kahn Zisken