Faith, or is it hope, seems
directly proportional to the need
we have to believe in what
some would call a miracle.
In Hebrew the word for charity
can also be translated justice.
Faith, he says, is hope
with a Godly intervention
for hopes can easily go
unfulfilled, but faith lingers,
and isn’t given up willingly,
for even when hope is gone,
faith in a miracle remains
for those most in need.
No one seeks charity,
everyone seeks justice,
and most hope and
have faith that there is
in the final analysis
no real distinction.
“Trying to explain the Old Testament is like trying to untie a series of Gordian Knots.” He said that often, and few argued with him. Whether they did not argue because they agreed, or simply wanted to avoid his unwillingness to cease pushing until the other or others conceded whatever point he was making hardly mattered. He knew nothing about the New Testament. He wasn’t even sure to what it was a Testament, though he could say that of the Old as well. It was just that one set of Gordian knots was enough, unless and until he could find his philosophical scissors, and God only knew where they had gone.
It was inside Nara
that it finally slipped away.
Its tether had grown
ever weaker, the first slip
was decades before, a book,
an answerless question.
It stretched further
in Tokyo, basin incense
under the watchful
and hung perilously
by fewer and fewer threads
until, with the monks’
gentle bow, it broke
and I found home.
His is six and deeply confused,
and asks questions to end that state.
He wants to know if Adam and Eve
had two sons, and one killed the other,
where did all of the people come from?
Ask your father seems and easy answer,
but one he cannot accept, too easy
for a mind that needs timely response.
I stumble around, try to deflect,
and finally admit I don’t know but
that some stories cannot be taken literally.
He knows what that word means, and it
is a sufficient explanation for now.
In a week we’ll have the conversation
once again, this time not Adam, not Eve,
but Shem, Ham and Japheth, and how
the three sons of Noah repopulated
the entire planet, and I will once again
admit to my sad lack of knowledge,
and silently curse the Religious School
for creating the abyss into which
my grandson is all to pleased to lead me.
She said “now what they’ve taken away limbo”
sounding a bit depressed,
“not that you proceed express
to the ferry dock, but
that was a snap, all
you were carefully taught
is suddenly wrong or irrelevant.
“It would be like Isaac,”
I say, “climbing Mount Moriah
with Abraham finding a ram
tethered to a waiting altar.”
My mother wants to know
how I can claim to be once Jewish
as though the moyel
also took my freedom of religion.
“We have no hell” she reminds me
“at least after death.”
I silently respond
and try to tell her that
I still don’t have a hell,
at least not as she conceives it.
“But I read,” she says, “the Tibetan
Book of the Dead, and hell
is very, very real.”
I tell her my Buddhism is Chinese
through a fine Japanese filter
and it is the next life
in which I will pay for this one.
She says “I wouldn’t want
to come back again,” and
on that point we find
the beginnings of common ground.
The was a winter, once
where even in the north
the snow refused to fall
and ice rejected jamming the culverts,
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 singed 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
dreaming of 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.
First Appeared in Arnazella, 2001. Reprinted on Website of Poets
Against the War, 2003. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29,
The sitting of Shiva
is a tribal right
performed with Kaddish
The mourning is harder
for the adult child,
for the now severed bond
grows with time
and not distance,
and there comes a point
where the loss
invokes your mortality.
Tonight we all speak
of the departed
off on a journey
we never expect to take.