POEMS FOR ISRAEL, OCTOBER 2023
Don Kristt, Esther Cameron, Elhanan ben-Avraham, Vera Schwartz, Ken Seide, Chana Cromer, James A. Tweedie, Brenda Appelbaum-Golani, Lois Greene Stone, Suzanne Musin, Gerald E. Greene, Ethelea Katzenell, Simon Constam, Yehudit Goldfarb, Elana Wolff, Connie S. Tettenborn, Susan Oleferuk, Hayim Abramson, Rumi Morkin, Reuven Goldfarb, Pessy Krause, Mindy Aber Barad, Ruth Fogelman, David Weiser, Michael Brownstein, Yocheved Zemel, Richard Krohn, Donna Bechar, Chana Cromer, Frank De Canio,Yaacov David Shulman, Yakov Azriel, Malka Kelter, Channah Moshe, Avril Meallem, Judy Koren, EBL, David Shaffer, L. Ward Abel, Courtney Druz
Poems are approximately in the order of receiving, so scroll down for the newest.
PRAYER FOR THE ENEMY
(a war song)
As roaring lions overhead
thunder the skies with rage,
our eagles swarm to battle
bearing in their sharp claws
vengeance due the savage
who would devour our flesh
and savour our warm blood,
slaughtering our innocents
in orgies of religious frenzy
to their Divinity of Darkness,
carrying away our children
in arms of weeping mothers
from safety of home and bed
to fearful darkened tunnels,
our swift eagles pour a wrath
of hot flame upon the heads
of the sons of death and dark,
terrifying the terrible terrorist,
searing a deadly dance of joy
and bloated boast to mourning,
shattering their demon dreams
and schemes to nightmares.
Not possible, today anyway.
our nights and days alike.*
They Are All Our Loved Ones
James A. Tweedie
A Psalm of Lament
So says the Lord: A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children for they are not. Yirmiyahu 31:14
In Israel a voice was heard,
he was imprisoned, wrote of a famous statue,
Lois Greene Stone
Tears, and tears ripping black cloth
Bubby, long drive
be my car buddy
by phone. Bubby,
waiting in airport
be my text buddy.
Bubby: I’m in a
Text with me please.
in Israel. Joyful.
First flight alone,
First bomb shelter,
in the sky, fright
became terror, for
herself and our people.
Our people. My lifetime
growing up during the
last World War hearing
in America “how come
the gas chambers missed
you” as I rode a green
bicycle in the neighborhood.
Did these young boys grow
up to be radicals spewing
hate for other Americans
who prayed on Saturdays?
Prayer. Hate based on
nothing. But nothing
under the sun is new.
Will Hashem cry salty
tears for the innocents?
And she will tell you—if you ask
about the man behind the mask
that he is ready—he is strong—
because you think that she was wrong
but I can see them both revolving
‘round a wall that keeps dissolving—
Now a candle falls upon
the map that shows where lines were drawn—
and here a chimney—there the stones
a hearth for holding human bones.
I do not think that you will see
your way around the calumny—
One damn hour in utter silence
AAnd another filled with violence
In the street where children play
stands a sea. We march today—
Bar the windows. Lock the door.
Lay her back onto the floor—
You may love your son and daughter
(even as you see them slaughter)
What he loves best is the sound
of her blood spilled on the ground—
Gerald E. Greene
I Am Hatred
Under fire in Beer-Sheva
When We Reach the Other
Connie S. Tettenborn
To Israel From
Blue Skies in New York
It’s complicated I read
there are gray areas, nothing is black and white,
examine the context exhorts the media in their hope to please all
A young woman and I watched our dogs play under a blue autumn sky in New York
she worried about her child
is there any gray in killing a child, any child we wondered
is there any gray in entering the homes of the elderly and taking their final days
is there any gray in raping women
I have many reasons to rob a bank
I can name ten good reasons for me to get my hands on money I desperately need
I will never rob a bank, nor will most people
nor will they rape women or kill babies, children or the old
there is no gray, for good people radiate colors
like the sun warming the forest floor and lakes and streams
chicanery is the gray face of those who blame and never progress
I saw a lot of gray in New York on another autumn day under another blue sky
gray filled lower Manhattan in a cloak of illness and wounding
there was no rightness to it
Now from far away, in fact, I do see a little gray
in the images of men in the streets carrying dead and wounded children
and I wonder where are the women who bore these children
how easily the oppressor cries oppressed
we all are lessened by this.
once i had a dream
Victims of war
“The Israelis love life, but we love death.”
-a Hamas spokesman
Savage sons of a dark Divinity
clad in blackness chant their cry
for love of Death in craving hope
for celestial brothels in the sky
rewarded not to live but die
in marching ranks arrayed to slay
the waiting gathered sons of Life
armed in force to accommodate
the craven hope in the day of fight
to taste the fire and fearful fate
of Joshua and David’s burning sword
to grant them their desired reward
in Gehinnom’s dark eternal night,
as we cling to hope of Life and Light!
PRAYING FOR RAIN
Listening to the rumble of fighter jets,
the way you listen to thunder,
anticipating the first drops of rain,
but they’re dropping bombs, not rain,
though we’re dutifully, yearningly, praying,
Mashiv haRuach u-moreed haGeshem —
“You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall.”
I rise in the dawn. It is too late to go to shul,
though I discovered my tefillin in my night table drawer
a few hours ago, and packed my bag in preparation.
My wife came to bed late and remains asleep.
I can only begin a poem, scribbling the first few lines
by the light of a salt crystal lamp,
hoping I can read them later.
Call Up in Israel on Shabbat Simchat Torah
Just Gritting My Teeth...
This is no story tall.
Grandson’s called up,
to the army he goes
from Yeshiva, where he’s learning,
in his Shabbat clothes
on Simchat Torah. Stops singing.
Not long ago, that sweet gentle lad
Sat on my knee, always clad
In cottony clothes, for kicking around
A soft little ball, making hardly a sound.
Quick!! His dad fast drives down South
To his lad, now in base,
Takes warm woolly hat, vests, scarves,
Just Gritting My Teeth…
But that’s far from all.
My older grandson, to the manner born
That Shabbat gave a D’Var Torah
Words of wisdom from our Holy Scroll
His wifey’s hand holding,
Her shining eyes gazing
at him – she adores!
Balloon burst their bubble – with rockets above
To North he’s called up – Quick sharp
Barely time for a hug,
While tears there’s no stopping - never been apart
Just Gritting My Teeth…
Even that’s not quite all.
With sirens high screaming, rockets clang, kids call
Come, Grandma, Quick! To the shelter come down
My footsteps not steady, my knee’s feeling bad
All this on my birthday, Simchat Torah’s Shabbat!
The shelter’s a reminder of a childhood badly scarred
My escape from Nazis, race against their barrage
When Iron Dome’s sonic-like horrendous boom
as though shot me ceiling-ward, to the sky, up and down.
Shoulders, back, arms legs shaking quite involuntarily.
All hugging, stroking grandma, Never seen you panicky...
Slowly calmed down. No dears. It’s no panic attacking
It’s shell shock from childhood, never since expressed
Now war again, scars re-opened, to trauma regressed
Just Gritting My Teeth…
This is no tall story
Now, Savta Omi,
(that's what they call me)
We see that somehow you’ve calmed down.
And here in this shelter we’re all in for now
For some time, who knows when will cease.
Cannot muster a smile. We’re tense, ill at ease
So here’s an idea,
For you grandma dear
Maybe you’ll give us all a surprise,
Share with us your Yoga exercise.
Just Gritting My Teeth…
Here’s the real story
My eyes, I close.
My hand on my knees
My breath’s deep and slow
Close your eyes I suggest.
Gently together rub, warming hands,
Place them over eyes,
Count to five, hold breath,
Count to five. Breath out soft, slowly
Releasing hands, gently open your eyes.
Gently together rub, warming hands,
Place on ears, count slowly to five
Breath in soft slow breath, hold, count to five,
Breath out soft slow breath, release hands
Place gently on knees,
Slowly turn head to the right, count five ….
My voice soft and low, warm brownly hue lulls
My Yoga-Riters into hypnotic like trance …
Repeat on and on we barely hear the next bomb
And Never Again do I Jump.
Just Gritting My Teeth…
Here’s the saddest story
The news all appals
Countless young lives rent down
The count is uncountable, figures keep rising
Rising, rising, like in my throat there’s a stone
And another, another, like building a wall
Round Jerusalem, while my country’s been raped,
Its innocence torn from my childhood love
As for so many others. While some gave up their life.
This trauma, unlike others, yet too will be treated
And we’ll rise from the ashes, a Phoenix
Bruised, scarred, uniting at last, never, ever defeated.
Stand your own ground
by Pessy Krausz 10th October 2023 email email@example.com
My dear grandson
Precious, sweet one,
Watched you grow up.
Ever taller, broad shouldered,
Yet with modest stoop.
Only now, just learning
To stand your own ground.
Noshing cookies - mother’s delicacies
When her back’s turned
Pops in another! But grandmother sees!!
“Take biscuits!” shaped like crescent moon,
Which waxes then wanes - all too soon
To stand our own ground.
Piano you play, never before heard
fingers tinkle ‘Fur Elise’ like yours.
Why now stop?
My young grandson,
Off to base in the south
To stand his own ground.
Hard awork at your station,
bent on saving our nation
from even greater disaster,
from rape of our country.
Your eyes on the screen,
to which you are glued
A hero unsung. Like you,
Stand their own ground.
Thirty three pairs of socks
not enough for my contingent,
says grandson from his base in the north.
Need mattresses, batteries, underwear, scarves,
Need I say more? Yes Tzizit galore
Fringes placed on corners four
Our protection they are
our own human shield
These too are what we need …. to
Stand our own ground.
We turn to our heroes for comfort and inspiration
Not only for mind, but for soul’s consolation.
Let’s hear Rabbi Sacks, so dear and lamented.
‘Are we telling a story? No! We’re writing a chapter.’
And said Sivan Rahav-Meir, brilliant media personality.
‘Israel will never be the same. No! It will be better’
Echoes of the past can surely imbue us
With strength and determination
To stand or own ground – on our Own Ground
Mindy Aber Barad
The Last Nectarine of the Season
In the last hour
Of the second day
Of the new month
To eat a nectarine
The last of its kind
This is the way
Its world ends
In less than 90 seconds
Plenty of time
To get to the shelter
At the next siren.
I don’t want to dwell on it
The 90 seconds.
Each war tugs on me
Just a little more
First one, then two,
Now three generations
I am ripped apart
When I think
Of my descendants
Beneath descending missiles.
Until the next season.
Iron Swords 2023
How did the joy of Simhat Torah suddenly turn to grief?
The jubilant dancing with the Torah scrolls stopped.
In mid-song, a young man felt a tap on the shoulder
“Come on, brother, we have to go…” said with a nod
towards the open door.
“Call up – waiting van outside….”
Barely time to fold the tallit.
In Gaza: hostages: infants, elderly, the infirm.
In the Land: roaming children cry for their parents, now dead.
Volunteers up all night – digging, digging, digging fresh graves.
The names of the fallen announced on the news:
soldiers, civilians, Bedouin, Arabs, mostly Jews –
is this my loved one? My neighbor?
The wailing sirens: “Quick, quick – to our “safe room!”
Huddled in a corner of our secure space
our little ones cling to our arms.
Ear-splitting booms: Iron Dome blocks missiles, rockets.
Our pet dog under the bed wimpers in fear.
Lord, grant peace to Your people, Your Land
Oh G-d, may Your light shine.
Estelle Gershgoren Novak
A Crime Without Meaning
Ugly is the darkness before the mouth of Hell
glazed not with hope, but ignorance and evil:
Do you really find a way into heaven on a baby's murder,
a pregnant woman's torture, a child hostage?
A surprise attack, a great number dead,
already too many wounded, too many maimed.
This is not the way of Rosh Hashanah.
the promised of a better world prayed for on Yom Kippur.
Once I saved a gangbanger from his comrade in arms.
It made a difference. It made him morally stronger.
Where is the hope to thrive? Continue? Become better?
Out of the ashes of a holocaust came a dream.
Now, once again, hate brings us to the bowels of Hell,
its shadows threatening, but with our prayers,
our hopes, our love, our empathy, we will survive,
each breath of life another miracle, another end to evil.
Yocheved Miriam Zemel
After the Shock
Going from room to room
in the burnt-out cottage
searching for my mother
visions of her sitting in her light blue housecoat
on her mustard lounge chair in the corner of the living room
And she was gone.
My hands dry and blackened
from the soot and ashes all over
the smell of burnt wood.
I tried to assimilate the scene
My phone blared, “beware of terrorists,”
gasping for air, I escaped to her beloved garden
filled with the plants she loved
geraniums, chrysanthemums, wandering jews.
Looking down I found her inert body on the soil
between the flowers, bloody, burnt
wearing her stained blue housecoat
holding a bag of bamba* for her grandchildren
on her way to my brother’s home
no pulse, no breath, stained with blood.
No time to mourn. My phone alarm summoned me to help others.
Mechanically, I ran back to the rubble of the scorched house
found a hidden blanket
wrapped her as tears streamed down my face
kissed her lifeless cheek
left her there awaiting my return.
After the shock I went from house to house
searching for survivors
striving to assimilate my mother’s death
to comfort myself.
Her suffering is behind her
but my pain persists.
*a popular snack
For Larry, now in Tel Aviv
It’s finally come full circle, Israel, you, and I
all born postwar, those primary days in Jersey,
crayons and air raid drills, late afternoons
at the J.C.C. sliding dimes into blue-white tins
to fruit the Negev, we, ignorant to our own chants,
to that alphabet read right to left, vowels below
like punctuation, to the lore of peoples and places,
Philistines and Phoenicians, how the Jordan ran
sea to sea, Galilee to Dead, the lowest place on Earth,
history and myth in tales of cruelty and pushback,
thus the holidays, Maccabees and their freedom fight,
before them the flight from slavery to Promised Land
where you have now retired to embrace not just
modern Hebrew, Israel’s waters and ascents of land,
Hebron and Golan, but also how sirens mean fleeing
to shelter, today’s tribal attacks and massacres
as if lifted from Scripture, its lessons in ways
to survive by raining plagues on the Other,
any except the 10th, the deaths of children –
survival by any means except another diaspora
because there’s nowhere left to go.
Siren at Noon (Oct 23)
Afterwards, the woman in the penthouse across
The street sweeps, then mops the balcony floor
Her blouse a bright orange, shorts white
Her Beagle follows her back and forth, then
Back inside through the open sliding glass door
She’s sweeping and washing and wiping, and
Watering the three hanging plants
An hour later, still doing doing doing, as two
Parrots prettily perch on the terrazzo wall,
Their color mirroring that of the plants
An hour and a half has passed - she still sweeps
And washes - how long does it take for a narrow
Length of balcony floor, an expanse of glass door
But I do understand
Choose a chore, whose repetition strokes you,
Lulls you, sweeps your mind
Of what’s come out from under the carpet
She finally sits on the one chair there
Left arm resting on the armrest, hand
Against her face - is she on the phone
If so, perhaps with a relative or friend
Who lives down south
If not, is she contemplating what
She has tried to sweep away
She sits there, facing me, who sits facing her
In my expanse of living room, on my soft
Blue sofa, with coffee, watching, swiping
Through events – mind doing doing,
Already having vacuumed parquet floor,
Dusted marble-topped buffet
Shelved with travelogue memorabilia,
Wiped crumbs from kitchen floor
Good chores, to help sweep my mind
My people, my little children
My beautiful young women and men
Each so, so, so beautiful, each a spear in my heart
When you strip them naked, my heart is exposed
When you shoot them, it pierces my brain
When you shove and jeer at them in the streets, my soul twists
They are my body, they are my life's blood
1400 plus 200 plus 280 plus, plus, plus
Every few minutes another face
Each a beautiful terrible story
Each another wrenching heartbreak
We cannot count this way
We don't count by hundreds
and not by tens
One, plus one, plus one, plus one,
Sunday, Day 9
Frank de Canio
(on the alleged hospital bombing)
The Press’s jury was in a hurry
to vent their long and pent-up fury
and prosecute the violated
to exonerate who instigated,
and swiftly hang before the facts
might clarify whose wicked pacts
had perpetrated the heinous acts,
to perpetuate the preconcept
of black as white
& wrong as right!
The Angel of death knocked on my door.
Yaacov David Shulman
(There they were again: the women
THE SHIBBOLETH OF WAR
"Outdoors the sword shall bereave, and indoors — dread …" (Deuteronomy 32:25)
We cannot sleep, for dreams are filled with dread
Of what we fear the most — the shibboleth
Of war, the eightieth, the ninetieth,
The hundredth time we dream our sons are dead.
Each night we dream the monster lifts her head
Above our soldiers' open graves; each breath
She breathes is rank with death — our children's death;
Her mouth is red with blood our sons have bled.
We shudder as we cry for help, O Lord,
Against the monster's fangs, without a shred
Of hope our children can survive her claws,
Unless You beat her polished, two-edged sword
Into a ploughshare's tarnished blade instead;
For she is War, the mother of all wars.
THE BURNING BUSH
“An angel of the Lord appeared unto him [Moses] in a flame of fire in the midst of the bush; he looked — and behold, the bush is burning with fire, yet the bush is not consumed.” (Exodus 3:2)
How high the flames flare up! The bush is doomed
To die by fire, for how can it survive
The blaze and heat? How can it stay alive?
Yet look — the burning bush is not consumed.
The flames do not despair, but have resumed
Their war upon the stubborn bush and strive
To scorch it all; but then the leaves revive,
A verdant green — not charred, not singed, not fumed.
And Israel, who wilts before the heat and flame
Of hate that yearns to burn alive each child,
Mother and father upon the stake and pyre —
Will Israel survive? If only the same
Angel might come to shield her from these wild,
Ferocious flames in furnaces of fire!
Day 14 of the War: Awakenings
(The challenge of Amalek)
Malka Kelter – Two Poems
Back from India
first flight out he could get
while planes were still coming in.
We collect the items he requested
make sure to shlep his heavy duffel bag
stuffed with soldier and medic equipment
search through bags and drawers
in his childhood bedroom
bring anything that might be of use
borrow or buy whatever is missing
try to imagine what a hungry soldier might want to share
with his waiting comrades-in-arms.
Standing in the Arrivals Hall
many other passengers also carry trekkers’ backpacks.
I try to imagine what he looks like after two months away.
There he is!
I run to him and give him a long hug
it’s not easy to pull away, and make room for Abba.
In the parking lot it’s time to repack and rearrange
the items he needs to take with him
and leave behind what’s not for this mission.
Waze directs us to his Army base
traffic increases as we approach the site
soldiers tell us to pull over
a bus will come by soon to take him the last stretch.
He gets out of the car
steps out of his trekking pants
steps into his green uniform
prepared to do the job he came for.
The bus arrives
the soldier walks up the steps
and off into his future.
May G-d protect them all
so they can return safely.
So many people are volunteering these days
coming up with countless ways to help those
who have left their homes behind
evacuated to safer environs.
We also want to do our part
to contribute to the valiant efforts.
Neighbors send out a notice:
laundry needs to be done for families from the South.
We receive the bag of laundry
empty out the clothes
dump it all in the washing machine
no time to separate the dark and white loads.
We go about our business
the machine washes, rinses, spins
we pay no attention to whatever is going through the cycle
we load the dryer so everything will dry quickly.
And as we fold the laundry, we notice
two identical pink dresses, two identical yellow dresses,
two identical green jerseys, four pairs of matching white tights
and we imagine the twins who like to wear the same clothes.
And then we see a solitary sock
big enough for a toddler’s foot
red and white stripes
the twins’ baby sister.
We return the bag to the neighbors
thinking about the sweet sisters.
It’s not the same to hear news reports
as it is to see the little girls’ clothes.
from flood to falcon
after the flood
of our tears
the world we once knew
from this devastation
as the fallen falcon
flutters its wings
so our voices
in harmonized unison
will plead for the hostages
beckon for the safe return
of all our loved soldiers
supplicate for the
and pray for a government
that loves the country
placing the people’s welfare
than the Almighty above
An enlightened world
We Stand Before You
My King, Creator of all
I weep from the very essence of my being
– remember us!
Your cycle of nature continues to turn
birds sing their morning song
flower buds open up their glory
rain falls and the wind blows
all seemingly oblivious to our suffering.
You brought the world into existence
and formed mankind to be your partner
to use the gifts You blessed us with:
hands… feet… language… music… colours
everything with which to be creators too.
But so many have turned against You
destroyed that which You created
used the tools You blessed us with
for cruelty and devastation.
We stand before You now, a nation in pain
and humbly acknowledge that alone we cannot prevail.
Your servants bow their heads in shame
– we have sinned, betrayed Your love.
Help us return to your fold, gather in your flock
bring us into Your palace – we have suffered for so long.
Let the true spirit within each of us shine out to the world
become examples of love and compassion, humility and morality;
a shining light in the prevailing darkness.
Almighty G-d, in our distress and with one voice
we humbly cry out – we need You now.
Your world needs You now.
An elegy for Judih Weinstein of Nir Oz
Perhaps a woman and her husband, out
walking in the calm of early dawn
paused, hearing noises on the morning air,
a burst of gunfire, an anguished shout;
exchanged a glance, perhaps, then thought to warn
their sleeping grandchildren, raced back to where
their house had stood but half an hour before
a horde of devils plunged us into war.
Are they among those we already mourn
or were they dragged away, perhaps, and borne
as hostages to Gaza in a jeep?
We do not know, may never know their fate,
we only know that help arrived too late,
we only know that while we win, we weep.
Lois Greene Stone
“Never again are meaningless words”
"Can't happen here; no it can't happen here.
this isn’t Canaan, this town is mine;
can't happen here; it just won't happen here,
countries today treat its Jews just fine."
Vandal-charred torahs were buried in soil
December in nineteen sixty-eight.
Shaaray Tefila, a Queens synagogue
set fire year later; hate; so hate.
Government blames the unrest on all Jews!
Poland, March 1969. Headline could be
any year any place. But we had a homeland
beginning 1948: all welcome.
May, 1939, some Jews escaped Europe
aboard the Saint Louis sailing ship
Cuba refused, then America too, death
waited back in Europe. Round trip
"can't happen here, oh, and never again"
pre-Haman, post Hitler, words we spew,
"civilized man doesn't scapegoat today"
but under the sun there's nothing new.
Hamas orders violence October 2023
in the Jewish homeland, now where can we flee?
Hate’s happening globally. Are we bewildered?
Who did 9-11 in America? Who initiated
this current war? Yet...
chants never change, world’s Jews have fear.
Day 14 of the War: Awakenings (The challenge of Amalek)
Awakened by a rumble overhead,
somewhere beyond my vision.
Continuing now for many hours.
Engines of destruction
defending our homeland,
everything we love and know.
But at what sacrifice,
This double-edged sword,
Must we grasp its hilt?
Oh, dear God,
end this nightmare.
Awakened by the empty counsel
of the world: restraint is needed,
Cries for humanitarian concerns;
Our moral standing is attacked.
How could that be?
We were pre-empted,
brutally attacked, massacred.
We must believe in ourselves,
we must take moral responsibility
For the antecedent
fracturing of our nation.
We are healing now;
maintain the inertia;
strengthen our bonding,
our unity of purpose,
our sense of common destiny,
that we are one people.
Now unified, empowered,
We must strike,
destroy a dreadful enemy;
expunge from the world
this Amalek reincarnate.
Awaken to a new dawn.
Bless the dawn
for its potential
for life and tranquility;
still a small consolation,
for a troubled creation.
Give us cement, they cried that we may build
For our people, hospitals and homes
Give us cement, they cried that we may build
For our people, schools and mosques
Give us cement, they cried that we may build
For our people, walls against the enemy
The United Nations gave donations, the world believed
And the enemy relented.
But they built not hospitals and homes, schools and mosques,
Not even walls against the enemy.
Instead they built, of concrete,
With our children’s labour, spider webs of
Tunnels, wide and tall as a tree, solid and deep
Beneath or next, hospitals and homes, schools and mosques,
Even unto the borders into the land of the enemy
And they filled the tunnels with
Mortars and missiles, rockets and launchers
And deadly weapons from foreign friends
For many years they terrorised the enemy,
Whose citizens were cowered and killed
Daily, weekly, monthly, year on year
Super rockets fired at their villages and cities.
But the enemy loved its people and
Built shelters and an Iron Dome to deflect
The onslaught which saved many lives.
Now is the Day of Reckoning, the enemy has retaliated
In seeking to destroy our tunnels, filled with food, fuel,
Ammunitions for our fighters
And retaliate for our atrocities of October, seven
They have bombed our hospitals and homes, schools and mosques
Our people have no shelters, flee says the enemy but Hamas forbids
We are human shields against enemy fire
Our children, educated to hate, are crying, dying.
You, Hamas, who love death more than life.
The Shahid’s blood shall not be your fuel.
You have betrayed us by your evil teachings,
You have sacrificed us on your altar of hate.
Give us peace that we may
Rebuild our hospitals and homes, our schools and mosques
And live, side by side with our brothers.
AMALEK THE SON OF ELIPHAZ
(Poem without an ending)
They mocked my mother: Concubine! His need
for her, desire perhaps, was paralleled
by Rivka’s (when she cooked a kid to feed
and cheat her blind husband who’d thought he’d smelled
venison my grandfather, who loved him,
would stalk and stagger home with). It’s well known
my father has the blood of Avraham,
the blood of Yitzhak. Thus, I and my own
children can only hate our heritage.
Those Hebrews and their holy god I damn!
When I am done, there will be no vestige,
no memory. I’ll teach them who I am.
L. Ward Abel
The War Begins
A theodicy cries out
on borders tonight—
how can the sun set,
they ask, how can evil
rise up here, now?
There can be no return
to a status quo ante
as the force-quake
to the free will
that challenges others,
there’s a justified shuffling
of boots on hard, waterless
fields in a merger of
anger, fear and
The Eighth Day
Away from this scratching of letters truth exists
clear in the heart’s eye but mist to senses,
a cold and stinging cloud hovering low,
a unity perceived in winking droplets.
Cloud bursts and letters bleed their ink
in watercolor wash of dark massed cloud:
a mirror finally, but no, a trick—
nothing looks like that shape anymore.
Nothing fits the concept of that cloud.
Nothing you can touch is made of glory.
Walls and roof were porous as I am
an open shelter to the blowing fog.
The great could scan forever deeper tunnels
through endless earth until the end of time
but only the smallest heard the sickening wings
coming through the thin symbolic net.
There is no repair for such wreckage;
even names are lost among the ashes.
Look upon the failure and then think
what to build and what to leave destroyed.
Take these words as silence, as they are
neither heard nor spoken, rather bound
into the texture of this fleeting page
or coded into shapes of dark and light.
Time has stopped for us here
or runs both fast and slow like the old puzzle
and now weeks later is the same hideous morning
and winter night falls in a hot afternoon.
Festival booths still stand that were not trampled,
the whole country frozen like a crime scene
taped around with banners, blue and white,
proclaiming not restricted but together
we will win: together, moving again,
steadily, holding up each other
with awkward hands, raising up a shelter,
a table in the face of oppressors,
the frame of a new world built of kindness.
Find here comfort—not exactly rest,
nothing’s close to finished—but a strength
to see each other in the weird new light
of this eighth day, the longest, not yet setting
though sharp stars glint already through loose thatch
that is a wing of cloud on lasting noon.