This is how we mourn:
we don’t berate the clouds for gathering,
nor begrudge the rain’s ultimate descent.
Our tears fall to the earth as well,
and there are moments when we need the gray,
moments when the sun would
be an unwelcomed interloper.
This is how we mourn:
we wipe the walls clean of history,
we whitewash them for they, too,
must be a tachrichim* and when done
we add the names, each lettered carefully,
this a plaster scroll
of those we dare not forget
requiring the perfection
they were denied.
This is how we mourn:
by walking out into the sunfilled sky,
having given them the grave
once denied them
freshly dug into
our souls and memory.
*tachrichim is the traditional white linen Jewish burial shroud.
Written following a visit to the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, where the 80,000 names of Czech and Moravian Jews who perished under the Nazis were hand-written on the walls of the synagogue.
He says, “I’ve run out of cheeks,
my own family has used up so many
and there are so few left,
I save them to have one to turn
when someone sincerely and truly atones.”
“I suppose,” she says, “there is
some logic to that.”
“Not at all,” he replies,
“for if someone truly atones,
if the apology is honest and heartfelt
there is no need for a cheek to turn,
the wrong is righted, the wound healed.”
She laughs in agreement, adding,
“You only turn a cheek when
you expect another wound,
and a wise man once said
if they keep hitting you,
get out of the ring.”
God created man in God’s image
much as man created God in his.
If there were no God, there
could be no man, and yet,
if there were no man,
there would be no God.
Perhaps Aristotle had it right
but certainly easier, noting
that bird and egg must
have always existed, and so
for that moment, Aristotle
without knowing it,
created both man and God.
The student may comment,
“Hillel was asked to sum up all
of the teaching while standing
on one foot and did so.”
If this student asks
the teacher to provide
the essential nature of Dharma
in one sitting, what
choice does the teacher have
but to rise and leave the room.
The teacher may comment,
“Can you see the treasure
I have left for you,
and what will you do with it?”
Hillel, hearing this,
bows to the teacher
and both smile over a cup of tea.
She says she is certain
that she has seen
the archangel Gabriel.
It was late at night, to be sure,
but it clearly wasn’t someone of this world
and equally clearly not an alien
since there was no UFO or wormhole.
She knew, as well, it wasn’t God,
“Why would God trifle with me,
when there are so many more important people
to scare the devil out of.”
It had to be Gabriel, I just know it,
and in the end he did prove it to me,
not by speaking of course, his presence
was communication enough, but by how he dressed.
Only Gabriel, she noted,
would dare appear in public
in a deep beige Armani linen suit.
The was a winter, once,
where even in the north
the snow refused to fall,
ice rejected jamming the culverts,
and the sky stared down in amazement.
That was the year trees would not bud
and flowers fled deeper
into the sweetness of the earth,
grass sighed and lay indolent.
It was a year my coat of many colors
was taken, pieced out among brothers
until each had a color and none a coat.
I would sit at the right hand of kings
imagining a day when dreams
might refuse to visit,
and then starved of images,
I could reinforce foundations
preparing for their visit.
I am strapped to the altar
and the knife is poised in the hand
of a man who would like to be a father,
both of us looking up for intervention.
There was a year, once
when the ram broke free
of the thicket and picked his way
down the hill to his young.
In my dream God came to me,
said “look, I need a break, some
real time away from the job, not just
one day a week, where it’s all I can do
to keep up, but a serious vacation,
call it a Sabbatical if you want.
I need someone to hold the fort
and was wondering if you had
any interest. Just don’t do anything
too perverse and pretend, at least,
to listen to their endless pleas.”
The gravamen, the omniness of it all,
the chance to wildly stir the karmic stew
to gain that exquisite revenge
that practicality and reality deny.
Or peace even, universal, the
answer to a thousand prophesies,
there with no thunder, lightening,
mushrooming clouds, just there
like a fog that creeps
into San Francisco Bay.
That would do it, shock the hell
out of them, so used to strife,
petty and global, here one minute
gone the next, Eden, at least until
old Darwin and Malthus
kick in and they slowly starve.
No thanks, I’ll pass.