Saturday, September 23, 2017
Friday, September 22, 2017
The Prayer Book
For years I've wanted to write a prayer book.
Why? Because I've learned
that the solid hangs upon nothingness.
Because I've found that the sentence is a kind of petition.
And because I've found that in all that I've said
in all that I've said I've said only thank you.
So, little by little,
in fact I've written that book
and today it weighs some two hundred pounds
and soon it will celebrate its fiftieth birthday
and yesterday I bought it shoes.
Aharon Shabtai (translated by Peter Cole)
Kharja / Closure
love you alright;
long as you
manage to bend
both of my
back to the
earrings you gave me."
(Anonymous, Mozarabic, 12th century
translate by Peter Cole)
Palestine: A Sestina
Hackles are raised at the mere mention of Palestine,
let alone The Question of — who owns the pain?
Often it seems the real victims here are the hills —
those pulsing ridges, whose folds are tender fuzz of green
kill with softness. On earth, it's true, we're only guests,
but people live in places, and stake out claims to land.
From Moab Moses saw, long ago — a land
far off, and once I stood there facing Palestine
with Hassan, whose family lives in Amman. (We were his guests
at the Wahdat refugee camp.) Wonder shot with pain
came into his eyes as he gazed across the green
valley between Nebo and Lydda beyond the hills.
Help would come, says the Psalmist, from one of those hills,
though scholars still don't know for certain whether the land
in question was Zion, or the high places of Baal. The green
olives ripened, and ripen, either way in Palestine,
and the memory of groves cut down rings on pain
for those whose people worked them, for themselves or guests.
"I have been made a stranger in my home by guests,"
says Job, in Hebrew that evolved along these hills,
though he himself was foreign to them. His famous pain
is also that of those who call the Promised Land
home in another tongue. Could what was pledged be Palestine?
Is Scripture's fence intended to guard this mountain's green?
Many have roamed its slopes and fields, dressed in green
fatigues, unable to fathom what they mean, as guests.
And armies patrol still, throughout Palestine,
as ministers mandate women and men to carve up its hills
to keep them from ever again becoming enemy land.
The search, meanwhile, goes on—for a balm to end the pain,
though it seems only to widen the rippling circles of pain,
as though the land itself became the ripples, and its green
a kind of sigh. So spring comes round again to the land,
as echoes cry: "It's mine!" —and the planes will bring in guests,
so long as water and longing run through these hills,
which some (and coins) call Israel, and others Palestine.
The pundits' talk of Palestine doesn't account for the pain—
or the bone-white hills, breaking the heart as they go green
before the souls of guests-on-earth who've known this land.
Hymns & Qualms
new & selected poems & translations
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Monday, September 18, 2017
Wood For Water
How come this night
You wash in a pan
A shallow draw of stream water
Spilled down from wild apples
Of the mountain, where deer
Browse, make trail
Hand over hand, you may
Think of it this way, or
Water that simply flows
Spreading into a sound of peepers
Where I’ve entered
Truck low geared
Flushing every redwing
From trees we were to clear
Blackberries grew then
Tickling stone walls
While working in the heat, high boots
Many came apart wet in my hands —
Couldn’t save any, not even for you
That was a half year ago —
Now dead wood dropped, hauled, split
Chickadees perch closely, fluttering pine
There is firewood to stack dry
Someplace through winter
At night you bathe cold, cold water
Heated warm —
When you dress you forget underwear
And the thin white blouse —
Just a dress, sleeveless and red
Rope Of Bells
It is the
Rope of bells
You have put behind the door
That let me know
Whenever one of us goes
To the privy
It is Spring
Already you relax in a cotton skirt
Passing through mountains is a strong feeling
Fields plowed, new wood split, the hawk floating
Puffs of softwood in the gray hills
A river runs with snow melting
A small bridge neatly built to get by
There is a pleasure in such places
An old woman and her huge straw hat
Raking the far corner of a hay field
These Of The Morning
There is the wondrous that begins here
So easily, the pail that you put out in the rain
Walk a meadow
Hold a hand with your two hands
Be with your closest
Sunlight is never far away
We’ve crossed the small water into our surroundings
Hiked and became tired and loved
And what we didn’t bring with us
In the smell of each other, the little movings
I'm In Love With You
Who Is In Love With Me