Is This What We Were Chosen For?

 

Cemeteries desecrated,
Headstones toppled and smashed.
Even in death unable to escape
The irrational genocidal hatred,
Even laying in our graves
You can’t just let us be.

Communities threatened across the land,
Threats and nothing more, save anger and fear.
Is this a game? Or a rehearsal?

Nero fiddles as adviser Antiochus
Readies the swine to sacrifice
Atop the Temple Mount,
And fires up the furnaces
To burn more than just Rome.

Empty words echo from
The Capitoline hill,
Does the Reaper need to appear
Before Caesar and the Senate act?
Or would even that move them
If it were merely the life of a Jew?

Rachel is inconsolable
Eyes puffy and red,
Cheeks wet and raw,
Cut by the tracks of her tears
Cried for those who are no more.
From dawn to dusk she cries out
Yet there is no answer.
From sunset to sunrise she weeps
Blanketed by the black of the night,
Her only question: Why?

2/27-2/28/2017

Walking After Midnight

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I go walking after midnight
Stepping softly while the seminary sleeps.
Haunting Hogwarts halls alone
With the ghost of Rabbi Heschel
Standing in stocking feet.

Hank Williams echos in my head
As the quiet reverberates through
The sanctuary of the empty shul.
The silence is deafening.
No bushes are burning.
Am I hear all alone?

I came here looking for something,
For meaning, for direction,
The comfort of tradition, rituals, structure and law.
And truth.
I came here looking for truth.

2/6/17

Notes:
“Shul” is pronounced “shool” and is the Yiddish term for a Synagogue.

The image at the top of this post is the logo of the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC and is meant to represent the burning bush that God spoke to Moses through in the book of Exodus.

Walk into the Night

Walking around the college campus
For health and fresh air,
Away from the welfare lines
Contemplating the soul of a billionaire

Past the waste reclamation plant,
Tumbleweeds roll past a dying tree,
Leonard Cohen whispers in my ear
About the nature of American democracy.

The Bitter sweet aroma of fresh hops
Waft over from the local brewery,
In the alleys huddled masses know the fear
Shared by nineteen-thirties European Jewry,

Gypsies, Homosexuals and trade unionists,
Soon to be murdered and in ovens burned.
After all that happened back then,
You’d think somebody would have learned.

Walking back toward the office,
Bread-lines coming into sight,
Trying to think of reasons not to
Disappear Tom Joad into the night.

11/25-11/28/16

Portrait of the Poet

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New York, Long Island, East Rockaway lived,
Oceanside born.
Oregon Trail traveled for opportunity, better education and family,
Through Baker City and over the Cascades, past the volcanoes,
Willamette Valley, Albany raised,
Liberty, Sunrise; Waverly Elementary, North and West Albany educated.
Army joined at 18 because no Circus in town.
Missouri, Indiana trained; Geissen, Germany assigned.
San Antonio, Alamo transferred; Honorably, Army Commendation Medal discharged.

Tampa, South Florida studies in religion (synagogue and university),
Hurricanes, hanging chads, holocaust museums and heartbreak,
Flew the coupe, Pennsylvania delayed, mistakes were made,
New York, Morningside Heights seminary studies,
Torah, Talmud, ukuleles and self reflection,
Roaming rambling, Exodus ending,
Old friends Albany, old traps escaping,
’round the bend in Redmond married, fatherhood purpose,
Poet voice searching, Notebook scribbles filling,
Keyboard keys editing, computer blog posting,
Audience friends finding, crazy head calming,
Poem now ending.

11/8/16

Abram

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Splintered pieces of broken idols
And shattered gods litter the floor
At your feet.
The axe, its handle still damp
From your sweaty palms,
Rests in unliving hands.
Your father’s eyes look on
In confused horror and fear.
Your last question
Remains unanswered.

November 2005

Based on the fairly well known midrash from the Talmud  (Genesis Rabbah 38.13), which you can read here.

Visiting the Scorpion King

They went and visited the Scorpion King,
Watching as his gladiator children,
Too timid to kill,
Lusted to feast
On the heart of a cricket.

His legs were all broken,
The Queen watched with pleasure from the sidelines,
As he clawed through the gravel
Living on borrowed time.

At the after dinner party
The Maestro played electric mandolin,
Tethered to a ball and chain.
Freight trains roared past Folsom Prison,
Where the Jewish Christmas feast
Was celebrated in July.

25 July 2005

Dust to Dust (for Simon Wiesenthal, 1908-2005 )

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Caught in the sacrificial flames
That licked the heavens,
Burned but not burnt

Your brothers’ and sisters’ blood
Cries out to you from the ashes:
“Where is God,” they ask,
“Where is justice?”

The Lord answered:
Tempered in flame
a voice cried out from the wild,
“I am my brother’s keeper!”
Bearing the shield of righteousness;
wielding the sword of truth,
“Justice! Justice I shall pursue!”

A voice for the silenced.
A memory for the forgotten.
A promise to the wicked:
Judgment Day is at hand.

Who Judges the Judge?

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Moses on the mountain.
Words of black fire on white
Etched in stone by the finger of God

Aaron in the desert
A molten idol made of Egyptian gold
Raised up and called Elohim.

The wrath of God among the people
Stone tablets shatter in the sand
Israelite blood on Levite knives

“You shall be holy for I, the Lord your God am Holy…
I have brought you out of the land of Egypt to be my people…
I am a jealous God…”

Should not the judge of the whole earth deal justly?

The Persistence of Memory

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I haven’t forgotten you
How could I even try?
Haunting my waking dreams,
Your eyes plead to me
From emaciated faces,
Crying out for justice.

I hear laughter
As you’re herded like cattle
From the boxcars
To the gas chambers
They so cleverly disguised
As showers.

I can hear babies crying
As they’re torn from their mothers’ arms,
Thrown against walls,
Or dissected like animals
By trained doctors.

I smell the smoke,
It stings my eyes,
Pouring from the chimneys
Of the crematoriums
Where they’re burning your bodies.
I pray for your souls
As they reduce your bodies to ashes
To use as fertilizer in their garden.

I hear laughter.
I hear them laughing,
Laughing because they think
That they’ve won.

We Began Breaking Up Before We Ever Met

Smokey dim lit pool hall–
Red lights making volcanic plumes
Of loneliness, desperation and shame–
Next to a brittle brown pine tree
A quarter mile off the grey gravel road
In the shadow of Interstate Five

Rusted vomit soaked jukebox
Softly singing Sgt Pepper and Imagine
To half empty dance floor of wallflowers,
Lost souls and broken hearts.
World weary alcohol soaked Army veterans and
Naive intellectual freshman English majors
Cling to one another, boa constrictor grip: Afraid
Of solitude, depression and dying alone in an empty apartment.
Distorted delusional visions of idealized lovers:
Never changing, never disappointing, never existing.

Experimentation, shampoo lube and 3,000 miles later,
Living twin bed fucking in off-campus squalor.
Catholic Hare Krishna Taoist correcting
School newspaper editorial grammar.
Noahite Indiana Jones finding lost Ark,
Signing covenants with blood dripping from a bleeding penis.
A relationship as smooth as an infected diaper rash.

Bright clear sunlit college courtyard
Spring flowers bloom, feral cats in heat,
Gulf winds blow carefully chosen rational reasons
Putting a bullet in the head of a rabid dog.

Before the breeze could clear brimstone smaug
Soldier boots hit pavement,
Tactical retreat, regroup, prepare for next engagement.
His Sapphic poetess slightly disappointed that he left
Just like she told him to.

9/27/16