VI.  Navigating the World


Nuclear threats proliferate,
the most dangerous
non-state actors
burning with hate
for the arrogant West
that allows its women
to stroll around half nude,
displaying the flesh
that tempts men to sin,
for men too weak to resist
desire for the forbidden,
preferring to destroy
rather than change
and live and let live.
                              — Gary Beck



The wind raced with her face
       down the street toward the river.

She had been torn from the front page
      of the Sunday paper.
Her story lay shredded in the garbage can
      on the street corner.

Her face was tearful, half hidden
      in a frozen white scarf.

Her eyes held the images of dead sons.

Her mouth, the petrified scream of grief.

The wind was gentle with her.
      It would take her to the water
      where her colors would fade,
      her wailing would mix and stir
      with the flood rushing from the mountain.

She would find peace many miles from her hoצe.

In years to come
      a rainbow might light up her sky in Sana'a.
      She might remember the photographer
      who stole her grief, who sent her sadness
      around the world for others to cry with her.
                                                                     — James McGrath
Poem inspired by ”The Face,” by Abdul Wahab al-Bayti, from ”Love, Death And Exile,” 1990, Georgetown University Press.


Something's Not Right Indeed

You say, Mr. Meek, that something's not right.
What stretch of time is in your sight?
Something's been wrong since first a flint knife
Became a tool for taking life,
And something is still not right worldwide,
Which should leave a dent in human pride.
Deserts of poverty, islands of wealth,
Innocents ailing, bullies in health:
Man-made economies man cannot control
And lust for dominion gnaws at man's soul.
The reasoning defective, the heart corrupt—
Something evil is going to erupt.
                                                — Henry Summerfield



You took my blood
took it
my withins
not in friendship
a scar to remind me I am never alone
       not when the moon was right
not when I would have poured it out for the love of this world
no you took it

You stole a skin
you hung it up in the doorway
and said
you can’t come in
even if there is hair bristling out like a boar
and wrinkles like desert dunes drawing what came before
you made cruel choices
but a skin holds the within
You took my name
trapped me
in ugly walls so I had to answer lies
be nice, be someone small
an appointment in a book
if I told the truth or fought or left
they’d give me a different name
the walls then would always be the same.

I close my eyes and see green and blue
fly like a swan
swim like a seal
know what is real
seek what is true
there are lairs and burrows and mountains
places in my head
where we are not prey for you.
                                              — Susan Oleferuk




While still parched in the desert
but with pitiless foresight,
Bugsy breached the bastions of Ba’al,
and Lepke looted the last Amalekites,
both, as it turned out, cash cows.

My own blinkered deontology,
disdaining such sharp-shaving shtarkers,
shackled me, ever desiccated,
to the sticky table of Mama’s tent,
where I licked up any bland bowl of powdered porridge
set before me as my so called birthright.
Only later, adrift in the breadth
of Gotham’s rushing canyons,
after Leviticus, Titus Andronicus,
Index Medicus, and NexisLexus
had all been commodified, and after
a liquid portfolio had made off down the rapids,
bearing all the really juicy fleishigs,
could I scope out,
with my crusted nose pressed up against
a gilded pane guarding every numerology of Meyer’s
Bigger Than U. S. Steel trading pool,
the stinging spine of our id’s jagged depths.


Ezra scribbled
into the wee hours
his analog glue
reassembling those broken tablets
in a new digital format
despite whining
from the Am Haaretz.

”It’s not much comfort”
kvechted the chafing mob,
”that we
see the pixels of the mosaic,
hear the Fourier transforms,
feel the keystrokes.
Where are the goddam
fragrances and flavors?”

”The pit viper
has a Jacobson’s organ
fed by its flicking fork,”
warned the programmer,
”and its rattle
can fan
the musky allure
of the Golden Peccary
on the altar of the Aztecs
or the smoked-fish scent
of Roy Cohn’s
congressional schmear
half a globe away.”

Chemical senses au jus
have proven to be the key cocktail
animating New Worlds,
where the tribes crave
a fuller bouquet of the law.
Waves of continuity have flowed
from Aaron’s spice rack,
seasoning Dylan’s coffee house,
buttering Spielberg’s popcorn,
permeating the books of Fyvush.

Would you like some fresh pepper
on your haroseth?

Hillel’s Koan

and pen a haiku
condensing all the scrolled ink
as you stand stork like


some of us
had felt subspace vibes
spawned long ago
and far away
by a pastor’s finger wagging
against the nacht und nebel

yet all of us
clammed up
looked elsewhere
played dumb
as government goons
came gunning for Klaatu

and most of us
were vaguely relieved
when the feds zapped
that shadowy shape shifter
betrayed by his tell-tale

hey none of us
had reckoned on
Gort the galactic golem
wreaking global vengeance
a trillionfold worse than
Rabbi Yehuda’s acrostic

those not of us
beyond the Kuiper Belt
without exception
yawned, tuned out,
and switched off our access
to wormholes
                             — Donald Mender


Forty gloomy days I saw no sunlight,
no full moon through that clear rock above —
the skylight. The others rested at night.
I patrolled (sometimes pausing near the doves)
moving what must be moved. After the rain,
light came out to play, striping colored bands
the same way each day, through the crystal pane,
it moved across the wall to take my hand.
But I had bellies to fill, barely time
to count the days and lead my sons and strain
all aching from daily labor, slimed, begrimed
never easing since the start of the rain.
Above all this, the worry she could sink.
You understand? A person needs a drink.
                                                              — David Shaffer 



When the wind blows down the house we thank the Lord
that we were out that day; or, when the sea
turns our mast under its swashing opaque belly,
and we are thrown clear, we swim and pray
thanksgiving, thanksgiving, selfishly forgetting
that, like so many bits of bait, our brothers
twirl downward in the darkness, being bitten and consumed
—but when you say you are an atheist,
then qualify that you’re a rationalist as well,
you say to me your reason’s on vacation.
For all we know, there is a God, a chemist,
and we are the byproducts of experiment,
luckily unknown to the great creator,
who, if that creator were to learn of us,
might draw from a vast laboratory a sterilizer
and spray us from the surface of the earth.

We don’t know what or why we are, my epistolary friend,
only that we are and we can think,
and with this small equipment we can challenge existence,
that it not best us for a time, at least.
For each of us can triumph for a time, even the unborn
has spent some positive force in first
dividing against the inertia of matter, a tiny Knight
against the Dragon of Death, or unaliveness,
a dust adumbrating itself against the odds.
                                                              — E.M. Schorb


Planetary Storm (an ovillejo)

Our overheated planet cries, clouds form,
the storm
batters and floods everything in its way
yet may
thunder and lightning past, its fury spent,
display a rainbow, fractured sunlight bent
into a promise of eternity:
uncertain as our future seems to be
the storm yet may relent.
                                      — Judy Koren



Why look for God?
Look for the one looking for God
but then Why look at all?
He is not lost
He is right here -Rumi

I circle dawn lake
stop at brilliant light patch
scented Pinecones drop

From ceiling of trees
blackbirds preen on branches
sagging over tarn

Am drawn to clearing
cannot walk by breathe deeper
lose urge to go on

Is God right here
He may be dear Rumi
but still I feel adrift

He gently whispers
look for unmarked path
feel your breathing unravel

Still hear breeze on lake
a song that blackbirds imitate
I walk off matey footpath

Off familiar stretch
silence walks with me
wish I was a bird

A black bird not lost
cheeping long vowels
trilling contented
                                                        — Marianne Lyon



We navigate the world
   With antiquated maps
      Full of uncharted spaces;

We shout at one another
   Words that have lost their senses,
      Worn out, senile phrases,

And still we sail ahead
   Pretending not to know
      Our knowledge has no basis.

A slender shaft of green
   Protruding from the soil
      Stretches towards the sky.

Something drives it upward
   As if it scorned the ground,
      As if it had a mind,

And something in my soul
   Would soar beyond the flesh
      And leave this world behind.

Since angels are pure spirit,
   Their essence like clear glass
      Allows the light to pass,

But mortal souls, opaque
   And strongly stained by sin,
      Can scarcely let light in.

The patterns that we make
   Are dark yet beautiful —
      Rose windows of the soul.

Hatred without a cause
   Covers the town like smog
      And paves the streets with fear.

We peer through boarded windows
   For chaos yet to come,
      We know not when or where.

We wait for the messenger
   Who brings us words of peace,
      But when will he appear?

She guards an ancient code,
   The secret combination
      To the seven gates of gold.

Standing by the wayside,
   She points to a narrow path
      And asks to be our guide.

We pass her with a smile
   And judge her actions strange,
      But we are the ones on trial.

As trees embrace the wind
   Before it flies away
      And leaves them standing still;

As roots pursue the water
   That drips beneath the earth
      Until they drink their fill,

So my soul is searching
   For traces of His glory,
      The shadow of God's will.
                                             — David Weiser


When God Dies
The silent echoes of a stillborn sun
Portend the doom of uncreated day,
As once-knit atoms come unspun
And time implodes in random disarray.
Now-soul-less life unbreathes its final gasp,
Unsuffering in meaningless distress,
As darkness holds the cosmos in its grasp—
Imbued with mindless, vapid, pointlessness.
Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,
For separated from eternity,
Love, truth, and beauty quickly disappear,
The hapless victims of Modernity.
A universe that’s empty, formless, void,
Is all that’s left when God has been destroyed.
                                                                     — James A. Tweedie


Initially energy. Electrons.
Elements eventually — air or ore —
ordered, arranged into earth and oceans:
constellations from the chaos before.
Molecules moved, motion engendered growth:
greenery gripped the ground and slipped into sea
and sky… Next, up or down, sideways, to and fro both
birds and fish could float and flash, feed and flee.
These and less haphazard life, the earthbound
animals which creep, leap, clamber or climb,
slither or stride upon or under ground
all did and shall evolve while there is time.
And outside time, existing outside space
Is He Whose work we are, Whom we must praise.
                                                                           — David Shaffer



        Heaven and Earth and Hell:
        Earth is where most of us dwell,
”Indifferent honest,” like Shakespeare's Prince,
With enough offences to make us wince,
But sufficient to put on the other scale
To tell, we hope, the weightier tale.

       Heaven and Earth and Hell:
       No human can foretell
When the craving for power found in our breed
Will issue in violence, lust, or greed.
Do they act out their genes or succumb to a lure
Who slaughter the innocent, crush the poor?

       Heaven and Earth and Hell:
       On few Heaven casts her spell.
Our teachers, our guides, overmastered by love
Appear to receive a light from above
That from themselves makes them almost free.
That light we earth-dwellers seldom see.
                                                            — Henry Summerfield



Jaffa Gate: Saturday. Dusk. From the Throne of God
Silently descend threads of a blue veil
To enwrap, entwine, and tint the pale
White stone houses of Jerusalem. Three stars wait
In the darkening sky for us to celebrate
Havdalah, and shut the Shabbat gate.

Zion Gate: Monday's dawn unlatches the gate
Of learning. Can you overhear God
Whisper, or can you glimpse the veil
That masked Moses as we read from the pale
White parchment of the Torah? The Jerusalem winds impatiently wait
Outside the stone study-hall, and in the leaves of olive trees, celebrate.

Flowers' Gate: Tuesday morning clouds embrace, merge, celebrate,
And stroke the Jerusalem hills. The gate
Of beauty never closes; the clouds, in their search for God,
Transform into stones, trees, temples, and finally a veil.
Leaves of olive trees (turning from dark to pale
Green), turning like the pages of a prayer-book, whisper and wait.

Damascus Gate: Do you too seek revelation? Why wait
For the blinding sun-rays of Wednesday noon to celebrate
Jerusalem's splendor, and entrance you; the gate
Of prophecy needs only a gentle touch; God
Has written you a message in the crevices of stone; under the veil
Find inscribed your name: deciphered, decoded and pale.

Lions' Gate: After touching the Kotel's stones, a pale
Hand opens a prayer-book. The words do not wait
For a minyan to gather as they reverberate, celebrate,
And ascend on Thursday afternoon, unlocking the gate
Of prayer. Beyond words, beyond Jerusalem's skies, God
Listens as words of prayer strive to move aside the veil.

Dung Gate: Do the large, silent stones of the Kotel veil
The Shechinah, blushing beyond the pale?
The stones, losing color in the Friday twilight, wait
For us to dance, to herald and celebrate
The Shabbat’s arrival, opening the gate
Of compassion, the gate closest to God.

The Gate of Compassion:
Who cannot celebrate Jerusalem? Who can wait
Outside the Sanctuary's gate? Pale
Pilgrims, we lift, hands trembling, the veil of God.
                                                                          — Yakov Azriel