AGAINST THE DARK LORD
poems for two cities, 2001-2002
TO ISRAEL UPON THE ALTAR OF THE WORLD
After the Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem, summer 2001
the Holy of Holies,
Rachel, immured, pleads
visitations of the Unreturned
speaks itself into the Now –
the gold, dimmed,
fends off its alloys,
cut the seed
from the groin of the past
lest these bones
lest from Judaea's
the Exodus people,
the Sinai people,
the Sabbath people
lest the ashes again
from the rock of all hearts
the prayer for all nations, against
the Dark Lord.
I have asked for a word to place
on the graves of those who have died
although crows replace the songbirds in our suburbs
and I no longer hear the voice of the mourning dove
although it seems there is an anti-god
who makes many in its image
an anti-life that only desires
to shatter itself into spores of destruction
although from where stood the house of prayer for all nations
a flood of cursing is poured on the world
although threat displays result in deference
and billiard balls vector off from the one that's hit
and the machine ties the hands in complicity
and cruelty opens the gates of the heart
and even the muse can yield to a murderous tremor
and crime commandeer the vocabulary of conscience
and blasts disfigure beauty in the mind
I will say temples still stand1
In the middle of the crater stands the memory of love
lifting her hand
lighting the candles
TIRESIAS VISITS THE BOMBSITE
For Jerry Mander, and for the street musician who played a blues version of “America the Beautiful” near the wrecked wing of the Pentagon
It was not unexpected, after all.
We had been told about a malice growing
Within the social tissue, cell by cell,
Of guns and fuel and information flowing
To men who rage had made mechanical,
Bereft of human conscience, yet well knowing
How to seem human, with an actor’s art,
Until the moment came to blow apart
The illusion that our lives seem to have been --
We knew that too. We had seen towers crumble
In miniature upon the movie screen
Made huge, and human simulacra tumble
From burning windows; greed had found us keen
For more of this; and if we heard the rumble
Of the real cyclone, heard real sirens blare
Through faked alarms, perhaps we did not care
Enough. For we had witnessed year by year
The building of a tower that confined
The freedom of the earth to few and fewer,
Had, right by right and grace by grace, resigned
Our share of the inheritance of the poor,
Of justice; one by one the ties that bind
Gave. In the flux of strangers without end
Distinction wavered between foe and friend.
Yet all our topless towers were built on faith.
Our airplanes were suspended in mid-air
On reckonings to the microfiber’s breadth
That presupposed that human beings fear
For sweet life, do not meditate the death
Of others, or their own. A patent error,
And many times exposed; its recrudescence
Only reveals that it is of the essence
Of any common world. On this we build
And build again, as on the lava-flow
The grass re-greens. Life destined to be spilled
Mounts in the latest vessels, even though
In retrospect it looks as if a skilled
Hand had piled up kindling, row on row,
Tier upon tier, for flames to catch and climb
Most readily, consume in shortest time.
This prodigy of corporate intellect
Assisted by computers and obeyed
By all the power_tools wealth could collect,
Where Mind and Might were stunningly displayed
Against the sky, was in one hour wrecked
By half a dozen men with simple blades,
A few months’ flying_lessons, and the will,
Forged in fanatic fire, to die and kill.
O weep, weep for the dead whose monument
Excelling modern art in harsh profile
Is this stark grid of steel, blackened and bent,
That juts above the settling rubble_pile:
The expert with his earnings still unspent,
The secretary parted from her child,
The fireman who heroically rushed
In to the workers, and with them was crushed!
Yet weep the more, if loss should make more dear
An edifice which when it glittered whole
Spelled slow disaster to the biosphere.
An outgrowth of the greed that rots the bole
Of government and public weal stood here,
A prison for the bought and managed soul,
A torture for the eye that loved to see
Earth-given forms in sweet complexity.
Yes, those who have for decades felt the march
Of corporate power on all that made life fair,
Have seen their land bestrid by golden arch,
By logos replicating without care,
The culture swept by media_storms that parch
The springs of mercy, while bulldozers tear
The earth for mansion-tracts that keep no range
For the working homeless, orphans of this change;
Those who had heard of farmers overseas
Bought out and herded into urban slums
Where prostitution, slavery, disease
May choose them, where fanaticism drums,
While their old fields are sown for luxuries
– Of half a thousand men whose fortune sums
What half of the inhabitants of earth
Could reckon as their aggregate net worth –
Of corporate economies that swell
To nation-size, yet are not ruled like nations
By laws within; where the command to sell
Trumps every claim of justice; where no patience
Holds those who cannot keep the pace, pell-mell;
Where humans are cast off as automation’s
Accomplishments decree them obsolete,
Where the least-paid are lodged upon the street:
To those who can’t forget, even at this moment,
Such things, that heaven-bound simplistic shape
Through which so many bodies fell in torment
From floors whose very height foreclosed escape,
Becomes a kind of allegoric comment,
A dual coffin of the human race,
Of lives summed up in logo, and confined
To the prism of a careless alien mind.
America! your patriotism wakens,
In rightful anger against those who planned
And grief for all those broken in that breaking –
Will you remember not to this land
Was the allegiance of the power that reckoned
Inside that shape, but to a web that spanned
The globe in an embrace of greed. That steeple
Was not erected to safeguard your people,
Rather to bring them down until they share
The bed of universal poverty.
And though the doers seek not to repair,
And though their madness works toward tyranny,
And though their leaders manage their despair
And wield it from pure hatred of the free –
May we be free enough to hear what truth
Is brought us by these couriers without ruth.
Or else the fire is not yet out, nor closed
The wound that burns and bleeds us. From the slain
Among us now are vengeful spirits roused
Which if they find the trail, if they attain
Their rightful quarry, may then rest appeased;
But if it should, like a virus in the vein,
Stay hidden, we may find our infed ire
A foe, than many outward foes more dire.
The White Knight, the defender, sleeps and dreams
A challenger approaches, clad in mail
Of midnight. Through the lowered visor gleams
An adversary’s glance with fire of bale.
He charges, thrusts – and the opponent seems
To topple back. He sees the visor fall
Back from an empty helm. Then he hears
Around him – Where? Here? No, there! – taunts and jeers.
May that in us which holds to freedom still
Hold still a moment, while the voices tell us
What is the precious thing they must not kill
In us, no matter how what gods are jealous,
And what are our own fetters, which with skill
We must unbind. If we rebuild our palace,
Let it be open to the air again
And open to the pleadings of the sane.
I, a poor poet, made this song – among
America’s deaf ears a doubtful bother –
Just for a croon to calm the pain that stung
These guts – to place one word upon another,
And on the harp of civic song, restrung
As best I could, invoke the common mother
Of song, of earth, and of community –
One of Her names, perhaps, is Liberty.
O Lady, may your torch have light to shine
On us even now, and show things as they are,
That we may rescue Ours from Mine and Thine
And bind to peace the god or gods of war,
Silence the curses that befoul the shrine
Of prayer, and turn again the peoples’ ear
Toward the true word, the honest song, the Law,
That having known, we may repair the flaw.
September 12-13, 2008
A PRAYER FOR THE TEN DAYS, 5762
Teach me Your ways
O God, in all our shatterings
We turn to You, though it is plain
You move not to prevent these things;
Those they befall cry out in vain.
When the wicked call their evil “God”
You lift no grim chastising rod.
Throughout the universe we see
The workings of mechanic fate,
In atom and in galaxy,
In life-forms that configurate
To their environment’s demand,
Their habits, as their forms, unplanned.
The human constitution seems
A mere contraption patched together;
The human brain, its fears and dreams,
Desires that urge, restraints that tether,
And customs whether cruel or kind,
Which among human tribes we find,
Each strand, each trait through time evolved,
From some advantage it conferred,
With contradictions unresolved
While self-deception veils the Absurd:
No star cries out, if circumstance
Should favor fraud and violence.
And yet in us – by chance, maybe –
An eye was opened that could gaze
Beyond its own necessity,
Could lift itself above the maze
Of reflex, and with plural view
Could see the sight of others too.
And with this eye our language grew
That names and sets things in relation,
The ear that sounds for what is true,
The will toward higher integration,
Justice, and beauty, to make whole
Both world and individual soul.
And in all this Your shape appears,
O You whom we have named the King,
In Whose light, when our vision clears,
We see each person and each thing
And almost, almost can divine
A world made one beneath Your sign.
We know that not by wrongful might
Could Your dominion come to be,
But by shared truth and shared insight
In covenanted minds made free
From fear of one another’s hand,
Where only force by force is banned.
Now therefore since accusers rise,
Command our hearts be steadfast still
To seek Your face; O make us wise
To walk Your ways, with strength and skill,
Through whatsoever war and peace
You bid us make, till war shall cease.
GEORGE BUSH, SEPTEMBER 20, 2001
I never liked the man before,
Thought him a cypher elevated
To tasks he was not fitted for,
But now I think I underrated
His fight and basic decency.
Though heaven knows I don’t agree
With much that he has said and done,
We would do well to keep in mind
Those parables where the Third Son
Comes out ahead. What need will find
In anyone, can’t be forecast,
And they are wisest who speak last.
Many an evil ails this nation,
That’s true today as yesterday,
But in the enemy we’re facing
Evil has undivided sway.
We need to draw a line in sand
And take an unambiguous stand.
This he has done. And now we have
To hope that he can make it stick,
Not be too clever by one-half
And superciliously dissect
Words that ring true, but heed their call,
For with this truth we stand or fall.
Those who acknowledge truth when spoken
By other folks, ungrudgingly,
May also hope by the same token
That other folks will likewise see
Our truth in time. All truth is one;
Let it be heard, and justice done.
AFTER THE BENEFIT CONCERT
Our speech inaudible at ten paces.
-- Ossip Mandel'shtam
Last night I watched part of a concert
Meant to commemorate the brave.
United Way seems to have sponsored
The effort. Listeners called and gave
For the relief of the disaster.
But how such moanings could inspire
The qualities we need to master
In order to put out this fire
Escapes me. There was not one phrase
To stick in mind, no bar you'd hum
To get you through the draining days,
Only the same impoverished, dumb
Stuff that has sapped the mind of youth
For decades now. No grace whatever,
No ringing lines to carry truth,
Nothing for folks to sing together.
So here I sit and grumble out
This verse no one is going to read
Save fellow-bards. The lines are cut,
The common people can't be reached.
But I have said, and say, that we
Need to revise our own convention
And figure out some strategy
For to regain our kin's attention.
Yoo-hoo! Is anybody there?
Speak up and answer, if you hear,
In verse, if for your Muse you care –
The summons of the hour is clear.
Civilization's final test
Is now in progress. Everyone
Is drafted. We too have our quest.
Our mustering has just begun.
I hereby thrust a stake in sand
And found the Civic Poets' Guild.
Bard, may this be your heart's command –
We have a culture to rebuild.
September 27, 2001-May 2002
“I never liked the man before,
Thought him a cypher elevated
To tasks he had no fitness for,
But now I think I underrated
His fight and basic decency.
Though Heaven knows I disagree
With much that he has said and done,
We would do well to keep in mind
Those parables where the third son
Comes out ahead. What need will find
In anyone can’t be forecast.”
– I wrote those words, a few days past,
After a speech in which he seemed
To take an unambiguous stand.
Methought determination gleamed
From words that drew a line in sand.
The hope we were not leaderless
Had many charms, I do confess.
Poor sinner. Now he tries to keep
His upper lip stiff. Utters threats
And tells us to go back to sleep,
Courts treacherous alliance, lets
Israel know they must give in –
The “war on terror” thus begins.
America! Do you exist
Today as more than an address
For corporations that could list
Riyad or Singapore with less
Convenience, maybe, for the nonce,
But things move quickly. We were once
Rich in all natural resources
And in our home-forged industry,
We had (unsapped by media-forces)
Some culture of integrity,
And (consequently) we could choose
Leaders who’d act upon our views.
My father! Late in dreams I saw him.
He noted certain of these things
In At the Crossroads. It would gnaw him
To know our state. He knew the stings
Of slighted foresight – tried to shake
The leaders of this land awake
While I, his daughter, tried to tell him
That not on mineral wealth alone
A nation stands, but on truth’s spelling
In minds no profit-power can own –
That counsel in community,
Perhaps, might keep the nation free;
I urged him help me to convene
People of foresight and good will
Who might assess the current scene
And with coordinated skill
Might then prescribe and recommend
In serious speech from friend to friend
A plan of action. I relied
Upon the words of Jewish sages
Whose thought, through long experienced tried
Had kept a people through dark ages.
Unless some teaching hedge it round,
Democracy’s an empty sound.
Perhaps I could not say it well,
Or else my quirks confused the case –
Wisdom is always slow to jell
While history keeps a quickening pace,
Nor seemed my thoughts proportional
To institutions that built tall.
America! A name, no more.
Mocked by her children, Liberty
Stands – for how long – beside the port,
Awaiting a foul shivaree.
Is anywhere that name still dear
Enough to rouse some Paul Revere
To ride through sleeping streets and summon
Defenders to some mustering-hill?
That would be too much more than human.
The dream showed me a funeral.
Well may our enemies rejoice –
We are defeated half by choice.
I find no cheerful note to end on,
But may these verses tell a few
That here is one they can depend on
To make a note of what is true,
Who knows the odds, but still is game
anybody feels the same.
We say it’s not too late because we say
it’s not too late. We carry on in words,
ignoring that whatever undergirds
our overconfidence was knocked away
some time ago. We’re like a character
in a cartoon. We’ve run out on thin air
and haven’t yet looked down, though we will soon.
Then maybe we will reconvene ourselves
from smithereens, as in a Loony Tune.
As in a dream we watch the enormous structure
in which we live. It slowly-swiftly shelves
into the dust. And yet no sudden rupture.
A social body inwardly dissolved
prepared this first great haemorrhage. And who’s
awake? To whom shall I report this, Muse?
TWO GLASS SPLINTERS
Go back to sleep. Don’t wonder what the pain meant.
We’ll sell you your demise as entertainment.
It is a common doctrine, though unsound,
That falling objects will not hit the ground.
A LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT
Out in far Afghanistan our men are fighting
To preserve the world from terror’s evil sway,
And to you, our country’s President, I’m writing
In the hope that this will reach you in some way.
You must know, far more than I do, how enormous
Are the powers that this evil has in tow,
What percentage of the energies that warm us
Rise from springs in the dominion of a foe –
In a region ruled by tyrants whose clear purpose
Is to bring the world beneath a cruel law,
And who scarcely try to wear a sheepskin surface
To conceal their deep desire to eat us raw.
We, who’ve drifted, cannot get back what it’s lost us
All at once, nor strike at every hostile state,
But if standing by our friends is going to cost us,
We had better know it sooner than too late.
I’m no military expert, but I’ve noted
Here and there what martial artists have to say.
“Take a centered stance” (that statement’s often quoted)
“In yourself – and let blows come from where they may.”
Now our friends are us, and all those who love freedom.
We must back them, whether odds be short or long.
For the others will not be there when we need ‘em,
And a nation must be faithful to be strong.
And to Israel our nation owes a vision
That has guarded us. On history’s stormy course
We were steadied by the voice of our tradition:
“Cling to fairness, and you need not bow to force.”
Mr. President, God has not changed those orders.
You are chosen now to lead us in this fight.
Softly speak – but firmly stand at Israel’s borders,
And America will back you in the right.
For in liberty our nation was created,
And it has a strength that’s always seen it through.
Till the terror we are facing has abated
You may count on us – as we will count on you.
AT THIS LATE DATE: LOUIS UNTERMEYER REPLIES TO ROBERT FROST
The scene is somewhere in the afterworld, in the region (undescribed by Dante) of souls whose fate is yet to be decided.
It is over fifty years
since our exchange about the poet’s duty,
if any, to respond to what’s afoot
on the historic plane. The Second World
War, in that case. A war with certain nations
who were engaged in killing off my cousins
and anybody else they had no use for.
Our countrymen at first had been reluctant
to join the fight. The First World War had been
so horrible, so pointless, we’d concluded
that any war was something to stay out of,
and we stayed out, until bombed into it.
The country then responded, as it had to.
Men were called up and factories were converted
to making weapons. Journalists and actors
picked up the drum. And even serious artists –
the term I guess means those who take themselves
seriously -- felt drafted to compose
something that would contribute to the struggle.
But you -- the greatest poet of our time --
you stayed above the battle. When I begged you,
to leave, for once, your vigil of detachment,
you answered me with a long blank-verse letter,
justifying yourself. I saw that I
had overstepped one of those fences friends
seem to need to keep up, as well as neighbors,
and I accepted your position, as
a part of what you were, and we stayed friends.
I let your word of silence be the last word.
I couldn’t, of course, have forced you into speech,
and I felt awe before the greater poet –
it feels presumptuous even to apply
the term “poet” to both of us. I was
just an anthologist. Although I couldn’t
resist the chance to sneak myself and Jean
into the great anthologies I gathered,
I knew my place, at bottom -- and knew yours.
You won your point; and on their front, the Allies
won the war. The fascists were defeated.
And I can’t even say it was no thanks
to you, whose sturdy verses may have served
as shelter from the blasts of cosmic madness
to many souls; helped men rained round by bullets
to keep in mind New England’s quiet hills
under the sane, remote, noncombatant stars.
Whereas Millay -- what did she give by writing
shrill propaganda, tearing up her art
as primitive women tear their clothes and cheeks?
Nothing that lasted, certainly. And likely
even the gesture, at the time, appeared
like mere hysterics. Folks stop listening
when song becomes a screech.
At any rate,
things seemed to have worked out, in ‘45.
We had our peace, then, for awhile, although
the mechanism of combat, in our souls
as well as in the economy, proceeded
to throw the image of another foe
upon the screen for bravery to tilt at,
even if it did turn out to be a windmill.
Our poets thought themselves well out of that.
We had protestors, bards who like Millay
thought earnestness excused them for bad art
and lack of intellectual clarity.
And we had those who went on making verses,
good verses maybe, calling on your spirit,
whereby it was increasingly assumed,
as beyond question, that a poem has
no civic mission, and is draft-exempt.
Around us we saw equity eroding,
the culture that had made us what we were
being gradually leached away, replaced
by predatory lures that learned to play on,
and magnify, the worst traits of the worst.
But still we made this none of our affair.
And at the same time, on the edge of vision
a new and ancient enemy of freedom
was gathering strength. We did not give the warning.
We had disclaimed the poet’s ancient claim
to the prophetic soul. Could we have seen
more clearly than the rest? If we had felt
a people’s destiny laid on our shoulders,
would it have weighted us to sink down deep
enough to see the roots of things to come?
I hear your reasons -- oh, I hear them still.
You didn’t want “to sing and cheer young men
into dangers you could not get hurt in.”
You didn’t want to praise the likes of Stalin,
to bless the necessary compromises
by which a nation gets things done in war.
But was that, Robert, what was asked of you?
Is it not the commission of the poet --
a standing order, not from government --
just to be open to what’s going on,
to take the shock into one’s constitution,
and, facing one’s own danger as a poet,
work out some form to hold it? Yeats once said
it takes a greater courage to descend
into one’s own depths, than to die in battle.
That goes too far, but there is something in it.
“Aw, come on off your cosmic politics,”
you wrote. That kind of joke cannot be answered
by someone like myself, with little wit,
but it’s what Dante called il gran refiuto.
Well, and since I seem to be assuming,
despite myself, the stance of wrathful prophet,
I’ll mention one more thing. You wrote to me:
“I know what’s wrong: the war is more or less
About the Jews and as such you believe
I ought to want to take some part in it.”
And later on you came back to the subject:
“The best part of my friendship for your race
Is that I thought of it as lost in ours,
And the long time its taken me to see
It was in part at least a race apart.
And even the part that is a race apart
I sympathize with. Give them back I say
All Palestine. No race without a country
Can be a nation. I take sides with all
Who want a platform they can call their own
To speak their language from -- a platform country.”
But still you felt it wasn’t your department
to speak on our behalf.
I should have quoted
Donne to you. I should have said: the war
is not about the Jews as persons only,
not about us as a nation only.
It is about the honor of the nations,
it is about the hope of right, not might,
ruling the world, it is about the future
of human consciousness and human conscience,
the good I always thought we meant by God.
It is about a promise never kept
so far; but, so far, not quite thrown away.
You could have said that better, Robert Frost.
You could have helped us see what we were doing,
you could have warned us, then, of peacetime dangers
that undermined what we had fought to save.
And now the world must play that play again,
with good and evil still more intermingled,
more intricately, lovingly entwined.
What subtle skill of soul could thread this maze
perhaps you could have shown us, if you’d wished to.
I let the matter drop. The war had taken
enough from me, without your friendship too.
And then I feared to stir you into anger,
make matters worse. I wrote no poems either,
those years. I was too personally involved,
afraid that it would sound like special pleading.
Perhaps I should have tried it anyway.
Although I had no more than middling talent
perhaps I would have found a certain greatness
in grappling with the impossible. The prophets --
were they such geniuses? God gave them words
to tell the truth. They told it without quibbling,
and probably (one hopes) did not engage
in contests as to who’s the greater prophet.
I answer you at this late date because
these questions, these regrets have haunted me
into the afterworld, have given me
no peace in death. And how now, Robert Frost?
You must sense that the fire of burning books
would scorch our souls. In the name of all that’s human
my ghost commands you, ghost, to walk and speak,
appear to all you’ve influenced and tell them
that you were wrong.
dedicated to the memory of Naomi Shemer
Near a great school of many fish
A barracuda’s head
Suddenly loomed. At his first gulp
Thousands of them were dead.
The barracuda tracked the school.
He came now every day.
The fishes realized he was
Not going to go away.
Then certain fish began to say,
“He’s really rather nice,
And in his gut those he engulfs
The barracuda smoothly said,
“Of course, it is not right
To eat a fish. If this occurred,
It was an oversight.”
The barracuda and the fish
Could coexist, as long
As there were fish. But they ran out,
And with them ends the song.
[Note: this poem was written before I became aware of Naomi Shemer’s “The Shark.”]
Peace: wrap that word in velvet of the heart,
wrap it three times around, then reverently
place it within a golden box within
a silver casket in a copper case
within a chest of iron with a lock
of adamant, and five steel bands around it.
Carefully dig a hole between the roots
of the Tree of Life, the World-tree. Put the chest
inside that hole, and fill the hole again,
carry away the earth the chest displaces,
fit the sod back above the dug-out place,
water the sod. Then write in cryptic code
upon a slip of parchment, the exact
location of that hole, and fold it up,
place it in a locket on a chain
and put that chain around your neck and vow
to wear it till you may again return.
Then to the place where you may find the sword
meant for you, go, with the blessing of the Earth.
Pray for the strength to pull it from the stone.
TO A PESSIMIST
Do not suppose me less aware than you
Of the dark wave now cresting overhead,
Nor think the drone of ever-nearing dread
Does not sound constantly and loudly through
My days and hours. Almost before I grew
I knew that we are twinned to monsters bred
In the same womb of time; that our bright thread
Is on the shears; that our large bill is due.
But no tear falls for towers tenantless
Chiseled in sandstone by the desert gale
That cracks them as it carved. We could not mourn
Had we not seen honor and loveliness.
I hope to see and show them yet, nor fail
To witness that for which our kind was born.
A VOICE THROUGH SLEEP
More than we wish to understand, there are
today these others who understand each other,
who understand us well enough for their
purposes. They know that we would rather
assume all will be well than assume the bother
of living, as we must, on the alert;
they guess we lack the energy to gather
as we are gathered by the will to hurt
into a target, our selves that range apart,
our thoughts unwilling to be organized.
We’re stalled on the tracks, our engine will not start,
when it hits we shall be again surprised
though we dream screams. I cannot sleep, and so
would wake you. Take my hand, tell me you know.
THE CAFÉ AT AZA AND BEN MAIMON
In memory of Simon Halkin, 1898-1987;
and of Danit Dagan (24), Uri Felix (23), Orit Ozarov (28), Nir Borochov (22), Limor Ben-Shoham (27), Livnat Dvash (28), Natanel Kochavi, (31), Tali Eliahu (26), Dan Emunei (23), and Baruch Lerner (29)
If we live like mice in a hole, the enemy will have won.
– Baruch Lerner
I used to meet a friend at that cafe,
an ancient poet who loved Whitman and Shelley.
He’d walk there from his home until one day,
he found the road too long. But what a spell he
still knew how to cast, that traveller
through mental space! Nor did he spare to tell me
harsh truths about our present when and where.
Some rage at what the years had done to him
helped to stoke a vision that burned clear,
discussing now the poets, now the grim
outlines of a people’s fate he saw,
like his decay, through no self-pleasing scrim,
the cracks that kept on spreading from the flaw
that always had been there, beneath the stress
there was no way to end. And I, a raw
newcomer to this grief, what could I guess?
I don’t remember any music’s jangle
behind our talk. It was a quiet place,
though it was situated at the angle
of two main streets. It was there, the other night,
that hate again blew up, leaving a tangle
of mangled bodies. Nothing that I write
will piece that quiet where he said to me
– from the ancient noble skull what angry light
blazed when he said it – “Someday, humanity
will grow up!” I do not suppose it will
now. What chance has talk and amity,
the growth of thought, with those who die to kill,
pushed by a mass indifferent to pain?
All that remains will be the inexorable,
the automatic progeny of Cain.
Of course, I still say we should meet and talk –
some place, of course, where we can watch the door.
To keep from being scattered by the shock
Is still the inmost battle of this war.
G-d wagered us, it seems, on consciousness,
and we do what we were created for
when we take thought together. Then, no less
than when we pray, we serve the G-d that made
the world of which the wicked make a mess.
Let us consider all that still may aid
our cause, to whom and how we may appeal,
and how our various strengths may be arrayed
to amplify each other. As we feel
so let us think, Jews, menschen. It is late;
but still our G-d of life is true and real,
and there is no inevitable fate.