Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Poetry and Prayer

It's hard for me to explain, even to myself, why I'm finding it so hard to blog here recently. Something about that last stupid war--the "you kidnap my soldiers, I bomb your cities, and then I negotiate" war--has soured me deeply on official Jewish life, even public Jewish life. Even my rabbi's deeply torn, obviously heartfelt sermon on the war left me shaking my head, since every word he said that was critical of the Israeli bombing campaign was met with a smirk and a snort and a cynical aside from some jerk behind me...who turned out to be an old acquaintance, a funny, wonderful guy, except on this particular occasion.

What place is there for me in all of this? Why do I bother?

On the other hand, I had a lovely time buying my last-minute lulav and etrog last week. And my son says to me, two nights ago, "I love this holiday." Such a peaceful one (no one tries to kill us, but fails, so we eat); such a silly one (you shake it to the east, you shake it to the west, you shake it to the God that you love best); such a respite after the faked-up communal atonement (which again changed nothing, as far as I can see) of the Hi-Ho season.


Anyway, on Yom Kippur, I led what was actually a very pleasant, even delightful discussion group on poetry and prayer at JRC, and in lieu of an actual blog blog, I thought I'd put those poems up and into circulation. They've been lingering in draft form here for a week, but your very nice note, Cheryl, spurs me to get the job done now, before everyone wakes up. Here goes, then--and if you have any thoughts to cheer me in this endeavor, do send them along. Feeling rather lonely at the moment, out here in left field.

Poetry and Prayer

they dug.
They dug and dug, and so
their day went past, their night. And they did not praise God,
who, so they heard, wanted all this,
who, so they heard, witnessed all this.

They dug and heard nothing more;
they did not grow wise, invented no song
devised for themselves no sort of language.
They dug.

There came then a stillness, there came also storm,
all the oceans came.
I dig, you dig, and the worm also digs,
and the singing there says: They dig.

O one, o none, o no one, o you.
Where did it go, when it went nowhere at all?
O you dig and I dig, and I dig through to you,
and the ring on our finger awakes.

--Paul Celan


No stab in these hands.
No thorns. No myrrh.
No swing low.

No jubilee.
No abide with me
not in this hymnal.

But blow me open, God.
No song in this throat,
just blow me open.

--Arielle Greenberg

O Many Named Beloved
Listen to my praise
Various as the seasons
Different as the days
All my treasons cease
When I see your face

--Samuel Manashe

You whose name I know
As well as my own
You whose name I know
But not to tell
You whose name I know
But do not say
Even to myself—
You whose name I know
Know that I came
Here to name you
Whose name I know

--Samuel Manashe


sleep, little beansprout
don’t be scared
the night is simply the true sky

sleep, little dillseed
don’t be afraid
the moon is the sunlight

sleep, little button
don’t make a fuss
we make up the gods
so they can make us

sleep, little nubbin
don’t you stir
this sky smiled down
on Atlantis and Ur

--Albert Goldbarth

Kids are stirring. More poems and prayers tomorrow, I hope, and a happier note to begin them.



Anonymous said...

I found this most recent war tremendously disheartening, too, in ways I am only beginning to process and understand. It is easy for me to feel exiled from, or silenced within, my own community for my views (which I perceive to be unpopular and non-mainstream.) So I empathize with some of where you're at.

That said, thank you for these poems, which are WONDERFUL.

Andrew Pass said...


I offer seminars to teach religious teachers and preachers how to use blogs, wikis and podcasts to promote their messages. I'll be offering a workshop in L.A. on December 4th and in other cities in the following weeks. I"m hoping that you might be willing to help me market this seminar. More information about it can be found at the following wiki:

Thank you very much and I hope to hear from you.

Andrew Pass