Thursday, October 04, 2007


If it's October, it must be time for this, by our own Norman Finkelstein:


Who shall have rest and who shall go wandering . . .

At the sound of a horn he almost turns back,
more than once he almost turns back,
until his head whirls with the memorious leaves
and his hands grow calloused raking the yard,
piling up dissatisfactions,
considering handfuls of world, their sameness,
and the way they crumble as he clenches his fists.

Neither anger nor joy
but something akin to pleasure
moves him about, sets him on his path,
plays loving airs around him
and finally passes him on.

Why can't he be a fool
with a tame hare and a stool by the fire,
piping his little tunes?
Surely he gave his consent,
but he has no memory of the books arriving,
of years sheltered from the weather,
of studying all the codes.

There among the visitants
packed close between armchair and desk,
he honors the dead in small rituals,
puts out chocolate for them to savor,
sweetening the poverty of hell,
where costumes are not permitted
and all wear the same stuff of death.

He shuts and locks the door,
and the house disappears as he walks away.
It is another of his losses,
like the leaves falling, marking another year,
sealing another book.

How marvelous is that, eh? From Norman's latest, Passing Over. A book you ought to own.

P.S. An astute reader, Dan C--, spotted the source for that little riff about the fool. It's from Yeats:

Two Songs Of A Fool


A speckled cat and a tame hare
Eat at my hearthstone
And sleep there;
And both look up to me alone
For learning and defence
As I look up to Providence.

I start out of my sleep to think
Some day I may forget
Their food and drink;
Or, the house door left unshut,
The hare may run till it's found
The horn's sweet note and the tooth of the hound.

I bear a burden that might well try
Men that do all by rule,
And what can I
That am a wandering-witted fool
But pray to God that He ease
My great responsibilities?


I slept on my three-legged stool by the fire.
The speckled cat slept on my knee;
We never thought to enquire
Where the brown hare might be,
And whether the door were shut.
Who knows how she drank the wind
Stretched up on two legs from the mat,
Before she had settled her mind
To drum with her heel and to leap?
Had I but awakened from sleep
And called her name, she had heard.
It may be, and had not stirred,
That now, it may be, has found
The horn's sweet note and the tooth of the hound.

Norman, feel free to edit or add to this!

1 comment:

Norman Finkelstein said...

Eric, thanks for posting the poem. I was going to do it myself a few days ago, but got frustrated because I couldn't get the indentation right. Guess Blogger's word processor just won't cooperate, so anyone who want to see the proper form of the poem will just have to get the book (heh heh). And yes, Dan C has got it right about the Yeats.