Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"A Poem for the Little Shoemakers"

A Poem for the Little Shoemakers

The sunset opens against the horizon
           like a book in which are inscribed
the deeds of a thousand generations
                       —and yet the pages are blank.
           Nothing but sentiment
                       among the hosts of heaven,
           while here on earth
                       the black smoke rises
           as the villages are consumed.

To be scattered among the nations
           and seek through codes of piety
to raise the sparks of creation,
           or to follow some leader
                       into the maw of the abyss:
the choices are dashed on the rocks
           and the rocks are worn into dust.
There is nothing to be learned from patience
           except for the most minute of wonders:
                       toadstools around the door
and moss growing softly in the rafters,
           a halo of clouds around the moon,
                       stars when the moon is new.

And then to turn and worship the invisible,
           creation wrenched once more from a book,
                       an alphabet of living forms.
           Why are we held back, oh Lord?
the cry rising from the corners of the world,
anxious to escape the workshops and kitchens,
           chipped plates, mismatched silverware,
           love weaving itself into a carpet
           as wealth suddenly breeds and thrives,
                       an exile wrought in gold.

                       So lean into the past:
Somewhere is a house that is the navel of the world.
In winter the wolves come down out of the mountains,
and in spring the goats seek the higher pastures,
           but the shoemaker sits at his bench forever
and the people walk back and forth upon the earth.
           For this is merely the story of a passage
                       not from one land to another
                       nor from one world to the next,
            but into the living structure of memory,
                        as that alone must suffice.
The books are submerged in a great repository
                        or consumed by braided flames;
                        the Throne of Justice is vacant
                        as it was always meant to be

--but the sun is warming the shoemaker’s shed
            and his hammer, striking the worn sole,
seems to make the sparks fly up into the light.

--Norman Finkelstein, Restless Messengers

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