|Madison, Wisconsin, USA
The Far and the Near
I gaze abroad where Israel mourns and fears
toward peace, and waits for the next blow,
and light the candles of this feast to show
the ancient miracle, though none
to succor us in endless war that wears
the people down, till they no longer know
their way, and take each
other for the foe,
and stumble into openly-laid snares.
Yet none can live against the whole world's will.
Understanding's angel then arise,
spread forth her wings, enlighten others' eyes
to see their need of us, and lend us
to show the world, upon Jerusalem's hill,
its own heart, and the home of all the wise.
Some gather Israel's title to its land
from words by the
author of the world enscrolled;
these things my reason would not understand,
nor credit more than any tale that's told,
that I do revere the destiny
of pilgrims once again upon this coast
cast up by pounding waves of history
too, by the longing they held fast
through centuries of exile, when they stored
all good that they could dream in Zion's
a world that now could deem that vision false
must be to evil and despair inured.
O stranger, if to you
the earth is dear,
then seek to guard her walls, and make her title clear.
There never will be peace for Israel
while others make
divisions in the Name,
begin with us the tale they have to tell,
yet seek to overwrite our prior claim.
We must be
bad, to justify the breach
they made between the teacher and the taught;
to prove the news and truth of what they teach,
in the former teaching must be sought,
the ancient word not suffered to contain
its own futurity, nor gather in
fruits of its own sowing. Though we mute
rebuke, the conscience of an unconfessed
fault will not let the unrepentant
and our misfortunes blossom from that root.
I have heard "peace," but in this world we see
do not mean always what they show.
Those who press Israel relentlessly,
I fear, mean by it what some dare not know
speak it after them. I see a creed
whose thirst for power concessions cannot still;
I see the world's material need
making the nations subject to that will.
Shall it be proved that there is might alone,
that hears no victim's cry?
Soon, soon upon earth's tablets will be shown
if there are stars of mercy in our sky.
G-d! bid your wise justice rise and trace
limits to force; preserve the human place.
My trouble is, I am too much aware.
I see the whole implied
in every part,
I see the far embedded in the near,
each masking face lifts up to show the heart
in which I see, alas,
the worm engalled,
or changes to a dial on which I read
eternity and time, or a threshold
to some forbidden room
where victims bleed.
I had a friend once who confessed to me
she'd seen all the Greek tragedies enacted
till she made herself not see.
Then I began to see, and she reacted
by fleeing. I was warned, and am served right;
I lack the skill to turn from sight.