Hover and dive, O winged One.
Come in a burst of feather.
Your prey awaits your rending beak:
Come and leave nothing but the bones
of a poem. Amen.
Lift up your hands, your empty hands
and pray for the starving,
Your heart emptied of prayer, now
pick up the pen in your empty hand
and write a check to address hunger’s pain.
In dream I heard the tolling
of a distant bell, heavy and rich
yet hollow and dull
it tolled eleven o’clock.
I looked through the window to see
a rush of snow before great wind
and there in the sky at the same time
moon and sun without contradiction.
Unclear whether it was night or day
What’s going on? was all I could say.
Words from Revelation came:
See, I make all things new.
Write these matters down
for the words are trustworthy and true.
This child, this Yemenite child
more than half-starved,
his body carved of bone
and swollen belly
this Yemenite child has a name––
Mohannad Ali. He lies on a pallet,
a hospital bed, waiting to die
or live. (He’s only five.)
His face bisected by light and shadow,
his dark eyes look out into mine
from the photo I keep on my desk
to remember him.
When I was a child, I wished for a house
a small house in the woods where I could write.
I made the wish on no star, prayed to no god per se;
it was simply the unspoken wish of a child’s heart
brought to mind on a latter day
when I was grown and walking home
from my writing house on the edge of the woods
in Maine. Understanding came in a moment complete:
I had the desire of my heart.
no birthday I know of, no anniversary,
temperature working up to hot
grass and gardens brown with drought––
on this day the temple curtain is rent
and I return to the throne of my life
after an absence of ten years from the day that I
as a non-Jew, who had known the facts
of Holocaust but never felt them, read poems
by those who did feel them, read poems written
by those who died, and by those who survived
the horror to pass on the truth of that shadow
that dogs the light.
I went underground that first day, not knowing
why I wept, and continuing to read the poems
until it became clear: I was in the bone house
of God, grieving with him for his own children.
Three weeks of weeping for his chosen ones,
three weeks of filling an underground lake
with tears. Three weeks of remembering day by
day the lives caught in the agony of those poems.
I never returned until today, had not even known
I was still missing, still there, deep in the earth;
a silver thread in my hand had kept me connected.
I know all this through no book,
except the book of my listening life
opened to page one, where it newly begins.