The wrongness, like an
like broken glass, like carcass-scented damp --
cold and dark in summer
greasy barrel of a gun,
snapping of a sewing thread,
subtle aching of the head,
we promise all of this and
so much more
on either side of our patented door.
What is so luminous about a day?
̶̶̶ Abraham Joshua Heschel,
At Sabbath's end you'll
sing a song.
Tonight, however, the words are wrong:
A bleak week, a week of war
when gladness fades and rockets roar.
Strike the match and dimly
those who never again shall be.
Light the candle, blow it bright,
still you squint to see what's right,
for in the smoking of the
somebody is whispering psalms,
yet David seldom sang of peace
but victory and sweet release.
Now snuff the light and
prophet with a hanging head
who has smelt too much red.
Dusk has fallen; with the
peace may well indeed be gone:
a Saturday night revelation
God intended for no nation.
So choose a partner to
while you glimpse a different place.
Be among the flowering groves:
go ahead and sniff the cloves.
Transpiring from Her
Her jewels are dots of dew;
She carelessly slips off Her leaves
to later grow anew.
The treasures of the earth
and steadily accrue;
a whole still-beating heart is due
from those who would she woo.
A rock-and-iron planet did
roughly hack and hew,
but it was She whose greenery
with air the world imbued.
And why did He ban
drawings? -- well,
it happened that He drew
a bad one (and She told Him)
of Shekhinah dressed in blue.
The sands and stars of
heaven are one thing,
or so the younger psalmists wish to sing.
The fracture of this world is an illusion --
worse, a sinful and corrupt conclusion.
God's casting out of God from here
was merely done so that we could be near,
a multifarious gem of bright creation
lasting just to host the One's own nation.
our task: return, return!
Return from whence we came, into the urn
of peace, nirvana, moksha, adoration
of the One who has no designation.
Like specks of dust that
can't wait to be mud,
we cease to grind our wheat, to spend our blood,
and fill the tents of Jacob with our books
while someone else herds, kills, sheds tears and cooks.
Yet why, on His first day
did One decide to call His Many good?
In fragmentation, multiplicity
could there not also be felicity?
For all that glitters is
but all that does is manifold:
a sequin here, a sequin there,
a billion atoms everywhere.
And if a single psalmist
but still her lyre has six strings,
and strings are spun from sixty more,
don't thirty dozen strands of God
quiver in the core?
Said God: Cursed be the
said God, and you shall eat of it;
said our mothers, take the apple
and with honey sweeten it.
But honey’s of the
blessed sky ̶
and so’s the word of God;
man shall not live on bread alone
but with his tongue be awed.
No looping trail is walked
but looping forward makes a spring
that slowly decompresses time
till space admits the marks sublime,
the marks sublime like
and rattle calls declared by crows,
and thoughts that dare to fly astray
from rings we thought we'd think that day.
He who wrote: ABANDON HOPE
ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE
did not foresee his iron sign
would melt within the year.
The walls of hell cannot
eternities of shock.
We must imagine Sisyphus
grinding down the rock.
The air at Good Samaritan
the lights too bright, too white, the flooring old.
The building hums: it sings the song of vents
and puffs the sails of our bland discontent.
We sit in school kids'
chairs; some rock askew
while others can't be moved, feet gummed or glued,
and at a licensed therapist's behest
we rank this morning's mood from worst to best.
Jamika is an eight, here by
post near-death scrape that looked just like a break;
she never wished to die, that is until
her eighteenth go-round on this ranking drill.
Javier's a two, with
violent stomach pain
that can't be, but can't but be in his brain;
the doctors have changed out all of his meds
with no result except increasing dread.
Mohammed thinks Javier
should pack it in.
Just give it up, say fuck it, pull the pin --
and this is not allowed, but how will he
be penalized for bringing up Plan Z?
The therapist stands up;
she needs a gavel,
needs a thicker shawl, needs leave to travel.
We're moving on, she says, to Eleanor
(who's ninety, and has just begun to snore.)
Matthias stretches up a
hand and asks
if he can smoke -- so he can doff his mask.
Enough. The numbers failed
today; it's time
to switch it up. We'll now confess sublime
desires, our most base and highest wants:
it's my turn, so I name a college haunt.
She smiles. Why don't you
There was a time when
so far from home filled me with doubt,
but now the doubt is everywhere:
it fills the earth, it fills the air
so that my very core is void,
the warmth of my heart's hearth destroyed.
Though I am sick, I earn
no pity --
after all, it isn't pretty --
yet I feel I could get by
if it weren't for the evil eye
of one who desperately believes
that I am sick because I seethe
and through sheer inane force of will
have made myself, and thus him ill.
But what can I say
struck me down?
I was a rocket -- then I drowned.
The sky did not deflect my soul:
it snapped inside, it had a hole.
And all the time I ripped the air,
I ripped myself up, care by care,
until my very life's ambition
was confused with my ignition
and going nowhere in my
thoughts, I shrug
and say I miss the eastern lightning bugs.
A siren blares. The
hospital's on fire,
or so it thinks -- perhaps a faulty wire.
We troop downstairs and out the rusting door,
give thanks to God that life's less of a bore.
The birds are singing;
trees exude sweet breath;
Matthias passes out his sticks of death;
the clouds are backlit altocumulus,
still pink-through-gold tricolored luminous.
Perhaps we are not ready
for this sight.
Perhaps we're unfit for the morning light.
Perhaps we must retire soon indoors,
where Eleanor will fall back into snores.
But blessed quiet,
and lack of Good Sam's well-meant charity
add up to something good, or something nice,
or something less metallic, less like ice.
*Written for, and presented at, the 2023 Critical Path Symposium,
hosted by Brian Palmer and Jan Schreiber for THINK journal.
With darkest head and
the jay of day and night
flies forth from oldest wooded vale
to set a few things right.
The first thing that he
says to you
is that you may be wrong
if you assume it isn't true
that screeching is a song.
The next thing that the
the people of your town
is that collecting seashells
is the sole route to renown.
If people fear your cutting
do not give yourself credit,
for surely a much bigger Bird
remembers that you said it.
And as for the plurality
of you who vote for liars,
you'll come back to reality
when honesty retires.
Now, word has got to me
the tendency among you
to throw the ill will into doubt
of creatures that have stung you.
When I am bothered by a
that simply will not beat it,
I take a skip, a hop, a hop
and on the off-beat eat it.
But conversely there are a
who won't a soul forgive;
like cud their grievances they chew
and don't live nor let live.
These folk should know that
some birds molt:
and dashing out their feathers,
grow much wiser in a jolt
to face the changing weather.
Revert to kindness, not the
(or meanness, I should say);
after all, the sky is clean
when breaks a sunny day.
And finally, for those of
who suffer, I've no right
to say the world cannot be blue
when there's no land in sight.
But when you find a secret
that shelters tender hope,
and in the ferns you think you could
gain back the strength to cope:
I beg you take a stone, a
or other tasty souvenir
so that when next you feel you'll fail
the wood won't disappear.
And now, methinks I cannot
much longer on your hat,
for underneath that leaning birch
I think I see a cat.
(He spreads his wings and
a lovely beating kite;
and travels he from here to there,
the jay of day and night.)
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