II  Life's Housing


Pebble.  Tiny and round
but hard.  Competing
with a massive boulder
I shrugged and piled one
little stone on top of another.
An arrogant wind, blowing,
bragging of its force, upset
a bit of my building-creation,
but could not consume it.

                                                       —Lois Greene Stone






Because the hands of the construction workers

Are still patting the bricks like puppies,

Because of the scaffold's hug round the shoulders of the house,

Because love's key is always stuck in the door,

Because even a leaning wall does not forget

The cement's wet-lipped kiss.


                                                              —Ronny Someck








The temple's lintels, pillars

and frieze honour capricious gods

who meddle in affairs of men,

muddle minds with tales

of inexplicable fate.


The cathedral's cloister, apse

and soaring nave ring with chant

to glorify one of all possible gods

who rules with dead texts:

the font of immutable truth.


The palace's crenellated keep

secures the ruler's authority

decreed by divine right  

while conscripted arms

sustain imperial might.


The office tower's glass prism

refracts the money-god's wealth

counted in bits and bytes

that lies beyond the horizon

of those enslaved by debt.


                                            —David Olsen





Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern


A concrete chamber, shaped in beige and grey,

As vast as ancient catacombs, and filled

With shallow water, in Houston displays

A workers’ guild of tall, slender columns

(All two hundred twenty-one made with skill),

Supporting ceiling, floor, water-column.


This concrete chamber called a “cistern“ is,

In truth, a reservoir dried by disuse,

Where looking-glass-water shows an abyss

That doubles the view for each observer.

Like a taiga-lake with upside-down spruce,

Here columns float on columns forever.


Seldom, by accidental design, mirrors

Do reflect stones reflected in mirrors.


                                                           —Bryan Damien Nichols





Stone Walls


Connecticut stonewalls define the landscape,

Squares, rectangles, irregular shapes.

Its settlers cleared the land for growing

by building stonewalls with castaway rock.

Convex on concave became works of art.


Walking on walls later became

one of the children’s favorite pastimes.

“I’ll never fall,“ I hear myself crowing.

The higher the wall the greater the danger

I, the invincible tightrope walker.


                                                                      —Natalie Lobe






Old Abandoned Barn 

one never thought
exhaustion would claim
such strength and tenacity
distant and remote
the seasons of back breaking labours
custodian of rusting hinges
and fallen shingles
a fading relic
like the boards that slowly
unravel without pity
                                             —Joseph Brush





Life’s Housing 


The building we should occupy

is one that’s grounded in the rest

of us. Its roof’s a lucid eye

where pending storms can manifest

themselves. And there’s a reading room

according one fresh food for thought

to supplement what we consume

inside the kitchen that we brought

from home. For still we need to eat

in friendly lunchrooms where we work

off seething tensions in a suite

more constant than the passing perk

we get from those outside the job. 

If Handel’s water music can’t

afford us tuneful means to swab

our cellar clean, Elektra’s rant

from Strauss’ opera will suffice.

For heating there are books galore

whose literary edelweiss

will complement the leaves we pore

through as we sweetly fall asleep

with high rise stories in our keep. 


                                                                   —Frank DeCanio







“A Song of Ascents.  Of Solomon.  If the Lord does not build a house, its builders have labored in vain…“ (Psalms 127:1)


Be careful if you build a house from sand;

You mustn't make believe it's made of stone

Or bricks or even wood, for sand alone,

Without cement or steel, cannot withstand

The slightest breeze, but starts to crumble and

Collapse before you have the chance to moan

Or mourn the home that you erected, blown

Away by wind.  Yet on the other hand,


God lives and gives you hope, for He collects

Your scattered grains of sand, no matter where

They fall, and melts them into glass.  You stare

As God then builds a palace which reflects

The burning bush's light, until you swear,

“The Lord is my builder, I shall not fear.“


                                                                           —Yakov Azriel








A human being is built in layers like a mountain

stripes and stripes and stripes

layer on layer on layer


Pride, cracked from above,

wears down with the years

anger stone

stone anger

a heap of stones

soft sadness underneath

soft sadness and warmth

and fear beneath that

like coal.


the earth moves

inside outside

outside inside

and from below are cast up

anger sadness pain

fear and joy

in a mad jumble

without rest

and our fragile bodies

and just then

just then

pity and mercy

are revealed.

                             —Ruth Shmueli

                                 trans. EC






He Built a Wall (rondeau redoublé)


He built around himself a wall –

it stopped ideas from stealing in;

he built it strong, he built it tall,

no foreign thoughts could sneak within.


Because free-thinking is a sin

and sin’s an evil to forestall

before it ever can begin

he built around himself a wall.


His fortress held him then in thrall:

it silenced innovation’s din

but its long shadow cast a pall,

it stopped ideas from stealing in.


He used denial to underpin

foundations that would never fall

for every fight denial will win;

he built it strong, he built it tall


but no perceptions came to call –

it was a fortress, not an inn!

No insights visited his hall,

no foreign thoughts could sneak within


And all his life he lived therein:

secure from controversy’s brawl

he never knew what might have been,

his sole achievement, all in all:

he built a wall.


                                    —Judy Koren







 (based on the story "The Exchanged Children"  by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov)


I add from the holy to the secular with loaded

saltcellars that I brought from a settled place

I use them to anoint forest trees for heating

I permit myself  to throw

books into the fiery furnace

so that we shall warm up  and not freeze


They look at me not understanding how

words become incense in the burning of the letters

how heat turns into language in which to speak day-

to-day needs as they sit helpless on the floormats ,

I break cinnamon sticks into the fire

to make a pleasant smell for them


Why they come back I don't know.

I built my house in the air

so they would stumble on the way here and still

they knock with mouths full of pleading:

black souls seeking quiet

the unicorn seeking  sanctuary from the lion

beautiful girls seeking healing spells

to relieve the pain that comes after the Sabbath

Both princes and peasants  wander here

I have seen  sons of handmaids pursued by animals


Only the doe my eyes yearn for

never comes to my house.

 —Amichai Chasson

tr. EC





Took from me the house I could have built
Perhaps a person can build at least one house, between

          birth and death,
Between the sea and the mountain and the desert, he’ll find

          a place for his house
He’ll build a house and know himself
The house I could have built and there were already maps

          of its interior
And an architect had marked out the doors in the walls with

          straight lines
And a balcony with a view
The house that I could
Have made in a suburb of the language
Between the labyrinths of a great city to which a hidden

          path leads
And its place is already written in an address
And there is a window facing north where the light comes

When he held the  mezuzah parchment in one hand and a

          hammer in the other
And a nail between his lips
A hand came down from heaven and confused
The path of the parchment from the mezuzah
And the hammer struck the empty hand
Saw us
Caught in a translation as in a scaffold
To understand each other
The place that gave me its name
Is going further and further away and someone else is

          giving it
A name
                —Hava Pinhas-Cohen
                    tr. EC







I made my porch like the inside of a house.

Outside the windows were checkered curtains

tied back with ribbons,

On the entrance door, a colorful picture,

and a tea set on the waterproofed table

and a twinkling mobile

and fresh flowers.

Like a sock pulled inside out

the lengthening house put out its interior,

and I, who am forbidden to leave the house,

have more room to walk around indoors.


 —Tirtsa Posklinsky-Shehory

tr. EC    






Blessing Unreason


Reason tells me this house is no more blessed now

than it was hours before you, dear friend, nailed the


a scroll encoded with perfect holy script tucked inside,

at a sacred slant to the right hand side of the door post,


spoke the sanctifying Hebrew prayer then

hedging bets or mixing admonitions, stood in my kitchen and


a sprig of dry sage, waved it over the stove,

the chairs, tables, the TV, carried the smoking bindle


from room to room, blessed the king-sized bed

with its indented side, its empty side, in this dwelling set

by the sea which to me, landlocked as a beetle all my life,

is blessing enough, while I, following behind,


inhaled the light that blended with the scent spreading

into corners and when you raised and rang a small

hand-crafted bell, I also breathed that calling sound

and stepped into the limpid air steeped in peace,


more blessed now that the clothes were hung,

the dishes shown evenly stacked through the glass doors

like stars through a scrim of polished sky,

fresh flowers rising like sentinels from earthen vases,


the ocean outside gleaming like wet stone.


We invoke the Kabbalists who knew there is doubt in


and reason gets blown in solitude.  Human intention

brings reason to God’s intention.  I plant lobelia to purple my


I bless our friendship; it is as particular as the words I’ve

        placed here.


After you leave, a neighbor comes to my door,

tells me a woman died in this house; was I aware of a


I say no, because I may need to borrow a heel of bread. 

But there are many presences, each a shimmer, a thumbprint


left by a friend who came bearing the gift of self,

who gazed with me toward the restless sea and the red


Now I live here as truly as the spiders and the whales

 and the practical floors.

                                                         —Florence Weinberger




Tor House




The poet pieced

this hold together

rock by rock


on land overlooking

the Pacific,

end of

the Carmel loop road.


A lone outcrop

for a lone man,

fond of the trees

he planted.





Today, I needed

two passes by

to spot the house,

separated by black-top

from the sea.


Close-hemmed, either

side, by rico

beach houses.


The coast cypresses,

poet’s pride, gone,

as Jeffers is,


it didn’t take

one lifetime.  


The things we love

meet their ends

at our hands.


                          —Tony Reevy








Who's to say it is not just rock, water, sand, minerals of differing colors, glass

                                                                                                      which is sand

                                                                          some sunlight, accompaniment

of noises not chosen, but given, quietude of worms. Liquid carries a tune:

                                                                                           melody of blood.

                                                                                    Refrain of bile, string

work of mucus. Trees in the park sway and shed few leaves in ablution. Wood,


                                                                                    and servile waits in stacks

of sullenness, raped, used, hammered, sawed, wanting to become. Houses

                                                                                                 built to be rebuilt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           —Philip Kobylarz  






you built your house

          from materials

that were thoroughly perishable

so that after you nothing would remain


No footprint

not the slightest

none at all


Cypresses that were already dead

(that were not killed for you)

were sliced into boards

                       for walls


Old Persian rugs

on the roof


         the wheat

right out    of the Japanese book

that you



so that we may learn too,

how to cultivate   in the way of the Tao:

not to sweat


just to facilitate

                            —Sabina Messeg

                                translated by the author and EC








My house is a tree house

My cypress enfolds the house

My cypress stretches out its arms to the other cypress that leans toward it across the balcony

And the house says to me

You're home

The tree says to me

Like a bird that sings and builds you no longer craze yourself with alarms

You have seen a straight line from behind to far off

Now you are turning my branches

fingering my acorns

anointing them with lacquer

hanging them in your ears

beautiful woman

lovingly rolling the curls of bark I let fall for you

And because of this the house also enfolds the tree

and the house and I are enfolded by all of the tree

These days, I am house-enfolded.


Tirtsa Posklinsky-Shehory

tr. EC





With my Aching Hands I never Built a House
With my aching hands, I never built a house
or wove a rug, or strummed a guitar.
Didn't run on the sand or skip down the street
or climb a mountain, on my sore feet.


But I held my babies tight on my lap,

ran my fingers though their hair,

wove them stories and wrote them poems

and sang them to sleep and built them a home.


                                                        —Sarita Perel



My son is building me*
Story upon story
Take off the shoes that are pinching you
Run barefoot on the sand
Feel the earth that feels warmth
Don't even be afraid to hover
To be in compassion
My son is building me
Story upon story
Stand up straight, not bent
Know every part in the body
Every fiber, every chord
My son is building me
Story upon story
Breathe deep deep to the lungs
See deeply with closed eyes
Embrace yourself and love
Without burden or effort
My son is building me
Story upon story
Each day, put new splendor on your head
Put forth new branches
That will reach far
That will touch near
                                  —Araleh Admanit
                                     tr. EC

*The word ben (son) has two of the letters of the root BNH (build).








With budding hands and soaring vision,

my young son places an oversized block

atop a delicate tower.

The wooden square wobbles for a moment on its uncertain footing . . .

precarious, like his toddling gait . . .


The structure holds!


My son claps his hands in delight.  I smile and hug him,

his eyes sparkling back at me.


All day long,

we add fresh bricks to the foundation

of our love.

                        —Cynthia Weber Nankee






Building our house


We've built a house that's made to last

into the future, from the past.

It started when I married Mo

well over sixty years ago.


Our first-born laid the firm foundation

for the second generation,

younger brother followed fast

with little sister coming last.


They formed a well cemented base,

grew tall and sturdy in this place,

they married, soon increased the fold

as Mo and I watched, growing old.


We've built this house, each had a part

in its construction, from the heart;

with twelve great-grandkids in our throng

our house today stands large and strong.          


                               —Rumi Morkin


And Then Comes the Dark

The bruising purple winter evening of remorse
this home should have been a sturdy old building of work
an iron bed upstairs
the wharf below to the grimy river
generations here with a nameplate and owning
later some land to dig and monuments of style known to neighbors all
perhaps some friends loyal and a quest always at hand
a collection and collision of family
or an escape to a room to be alone

But this is my home
I build not, have not, own not
I seek what I cannot see, see what I can
never belong
and then comes the dark in hurting aubergine of royals
a procession of whispering fears and neverlands
and then a creation built of filigrees of hope
my filaments of a flickering faith
flung down from the forgiving heavens.
                                                     —Susan Oleferuk





“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife, to become one flesh.“ (Genesis 2:24)


You can't deny the fact I tried to build

A marriage that would last, a marriage built

Of stones I hewed myself, a marriage gilt

With gold as well.  But I was too unskilled                              

In masonry; when cracks appeared, I filled

                The cracks as best I could with mud and silt,

                With ashes, dust and spit, with weeds that wilt

In summer's heat, with butterflies I killed.


You too believed our marriage was a wall

Of massive marble blocs; we built it well,

We thought, as sturdy as great ancient walls

That last six thousand years.  It cannot fall,

                We loved to tell each other—till it fell,

                The way a tower made of cardboard falls.


                                                 —Yakov Azriel







In the house that will be ours

There will be almost no furniture

Just a table

Two chairs

A bed and a lamp.


And I see the house that will be ours

At the edge of the desert of silent birds

Very far away


                                      —Ruth Gilead                                                      tr. EC



When I return
I will pad our bed made of cardboard
With peels of oranges in season
Far off in the corners of the room you will light candles
The bread baking in the oven will wake the children
Drowsy with thoughts they will come into the kitchen.
Now all that remains
Is to walk all this sky
To the house
That is waiting for me
At the end
Of Nothingness.

                            —Efrat Bigman
                                tr. EC

*“Space that Sees,“ installation by James Turrell in the Sculpture Garden of  the Israel Museum, Jerusalem




One  With the Elements

“The essence of a person is to serve their Creator, as if they were a Temple, as it is written, “You shall build me a Tabernacle, and I will dwell within it“ (Pele Yoetz Good Conduct)

The instructions are there, I watch them
as my eyes tell my hands to move,
where to place my feet.  Engrave
in my head.  Lead out like a stem
grows, immerses, a part of me.  Learns
new patterns, a catalog, adds
items, I take to it.  So glad
and break out, renew, on a burn,
what was beyond me, ingest.
Things mix, match and become
what wasn't a part of me.  Rest
comfortably inside and impressed
as this newness settles.  The sum
of me evolves, changes.  I'm blessed.

                                                       —Zev Davis




Stone-cold Proverbs

One stone is not a wall
One wall does not define a city
A retaining wall may hold up a prison
Or stop the surge of the sea
Stones and cement may support a house
Or a grave
Better a wooden shed with life and love
Than a cold marble palace
Better to plant one acorn
Than to curse a field of stones
One stone gate does not delineate the region
Where once grew the trees of the Garden of Eden

The Old Law School Building
They've painted the dome of the Great Lecture Hall
In a hideous shade of green
They've hidden West Law books in the basement,
Behind an opaque screen
The flat LED's cover every wall
But no one seems to mind
In the Old Law School Building
Justice is hard to find
Where once great scholars lectured,
A tower blocks the view
They've added an elevator
But it only reaches “Two“
Oh, the students laugh and chatter
And smoke and smile and shout,
But in the Old Law School Building
The lights are going out
Where the angelic and the concrete meet
Rafael the angel of healing
Lands lightly on the high holy places
On the Temple Mount
No one sees his folded wings
Only the lonely and blind
Sense his presence
The rain does not cling
To his transparent being
His two eyes like bright stars
Shine from within
Under his wings, the melancholy find shelter,
The weary can find peace
No walls can contain his immortal essence
But where on heaven or earth is his dwelling, his home?
Even the sparrow finds its home
And the robin builds its nest,
But where will the angel Rafael roam
To find eternal rest?
                                 —Brenda Appelbaum-Golani




Building Block

The deadly metered mile-high toothpick
(top floor: a billion dollars, so they say)
bores through the skyline and the sky
boringly. When the sun reaches
the south or so, the boring building blocks
the sun, and the boring building's boring shadow
bores through the light in southern Central Park
and doses the children at play
without discrimination, as the night,
or the Dark Silent Hooded Angel Wielding
Sickle, so delighted to visit daily.
                                      —James B. Nicola





The Museum of Tolerance


From where I stand, six floors beneath the clouds,

suspended between the monuments of our history, the Old City walls

the King David, our museums, the church and Muslim spires

are all tucked inside our sprawling cityscape.


From its humble beginning, just simple stakes in the ground,

I  am watching a giant building grow, blocks of stone, clay,

and slabs of glass, walls and frames, delivered by trucks

and lowered by our ubiquitous cranes, bit by bit, secured and calculated

to be a perfect fit by Israel’s engineers and architects.


Today, I saw a crew, on its plateau, tiny stick figures

scuttling back and forth creating the infrastructure

for the mixed media technologies, which together with exhibits,

impressive displays, tours by uniformed docents will lure groups

from afar, revealing our noble intentions and enviable mastery.


This bold and monumental enterprise,

this grand edifice, our city’s newest pride and joy,

will have sufficient walls to proclaim the largesse in fine plaques

of those donors who made all this possible.

Speeches by dignitaries, from here and abroad, received

with much applause, will laud the lofty, seldom realized

 dream of tolerance, in this worthy twin for Yad Vashem, our esteemed,

 much revered museum of intolerance, from which they have been shuttled

back and forth in a fleet of limousines accompanied by sirens in the streets.


And yet, barely seventy years past the hatred intended to destroy us,

where the blood-soaked ground of the camps and killing fields is forever stained,

 we have heard the news: that beast has in its cradle been reborn

 in those same countries sending emissaries to this edifice

who will shower us with compliments, be dined by our world class chefs

 and sleep in our best hotels. We are grateful they have deigned to visit us,

saluting tolerance and voicing solemn resolutions, before returning to the countries,

that deny and denounce us in international courts and assemblies.

 From my window, I regret you have taken away a great chunk of my sky,

so I feel justified to suggest the space could have been a  park, with swings

 and benches, where our Muslim neighbors whose envy and resentment, this museum,

 rising on the graves of their cemetery, has increased their ire, might sit beside us

exchanging small acts of kindness, and discovering our mutual humanity.


An earthquake can easily reduce this edifice to rubble,

but sitting on a bench someday I might meet someone

and exchange a simple conversation and smiles

and we, who were enemies, might become friends,

and even have an occasion in some yet inexplicable course of events,

to save each other’s lives, an earth shattering event, waiting to unravel,

but not so fragile, and subject to nature’s whim,

as this monument to wishful thinking in concrete.


                                                           —Roberta Chester





From on High


“This is a building which should not be built,“

said the Lord, seeing brick after brick shaped

from the clay of fear, burnished with the glaze

of arrogance. A tower rising higher

in an attempt to escape the earth,

to escape those still earthbound,

whose words rise but are unheard

by those gazing down, hurling words

to those below. “Go, swarm elsewhere.“

“This is a building which should not be built,“

said the Lord, causing a scattering of bricks,

the end of the tower. Builders returned

to the earth. The Lord’s words:

“Resume your journeys. Replenish the earth.

Do justly. Love goodness. Walk humbly

with one another. Walk humbly with your G-d.“


                                                         —Sara deBeer








First the landscape: bull rushes, cattails and dozens of water lilies

which require water so I'll put in a lake with lagoons, an island

overgrown with scrub, green and yellow tangles reaching.


Mist scrims over lazy schools of minnows in my lake,

an early morning osprey  swoops into breakfast

ignored by a pair of beavers : chop, cut design, build.


Beyond the lake the land turns into hills, high as blue.

Oak, popular, maple at the foothills, give way to loblolly pine,

sap grown stiff.  Green turns gray peaks white.


Jays, finches, orioles, sprinkle blue, yellow, red accents in the sky.

I hear low toned hoots and howls, a slither of snake breaks the silence.

Bayberry and honeysuckle intoxicate every living thing.


I'm enamored with my city, not a city.  No road kill, traffic,

sirens, garbage stench , gasoline fumes; no beer cans, smokestacks,

cracked cement, bulldozers, cigarettes butts stain the scene so 


I decide to put all that in a another place called inferno

and leave my little Eden untouched but afraid.


                                     —Natalie Lobe






To the song of your dwellings I’ve listened, Kley Shir,
A place which the not-very-rich can hold dear,
With your shadowy paths, and your patches of green,
And mysterious passageways through and between,
Here children are sent without worries to school
And cats find their food on top of a wall.
Is it true the skyscrapers are landing on you,
That the giants will have it their way? is it true
That the quiet we love will soon have to give way
To the roar of car engines, the shopping mall’s bray?
The harp is in mourning, the lyre in the dust,
And the shofar is sounding a great warning blast.

Come let us walk down the pedestrian path,
Forget for a while all the projects of wrath,
In the Keren Park by the swings let us stay
With the mothers awhile, then go on our way
By the footbridge to where, among streets named for streams
We can lose our way and shake off our bad dreams.
To the songs of your dwellings I’ve listened, Kley Shir,
A place which the not-very-rich can hold dear.
                                                                   —Esther Cameron

*Neighborhood in Maale Adumim, Israel.  Kley Shir means “musical instruments“; the streets of the neighborhood are named for Biblical musical instruments.








Early that morning

I was told I see in circles,

not rectangles, “We’ve different views.“

I don’t know why he said that.

I was photographing Route 1 office expansion.

A construction foreman 6’1“ told me this

and I’m 5’8“

I suspect our heights

had nothing to do with it

or my clean upper lip,

his trimmed mustache.

The photographs were good

the buildings were plumb

he was right.


I’ll credit buildings

they hit me as marvels

out of touch with cosmic globes

but standing,



 “Problems,“ his helper said,

so he went.

I was awed by that nimble workman’s climbs

on squared structural steel,

his familiarity with angles

not mine.

                                  —Harvey Steinberg


To Section III