More poems by Mordechai in our Spring Issue
Moon Song is from a cycle of poems-in-progress based upon the Jewish calendar. The first three poems in the cycle appeared in Spring 2000 .
If you're reading this issue, you might wish to read the entire text of Moonsong in our Winter 2001 issue.
The Angels of Poetry
Everyday, poems come and go;
and if I did not stretch out to pick them,
as from the Tree of Knowledge – others might.
Or worse, would return them abandoned to the turning,
burning swords held by the garden's guardian angels.
For in the end, poems belong to fiery angels:
angels of death and angels of life,
angels of punishment and angels of reward,
prosecuting angels and angels for the defence.
In the end, they decide to whom a poem belongs;
in the end, they decide whom the poet praises –
God or devil, angel or woman.
In the end, they retain the eternal rights over your work
and only by the dint of divine dispensation,
lend you some words out of their jealous store house.
In the end, poems are angels and,
if they but knew it, angels are poems.
Independence Day 2000
Today they locked the gates and declared a holiday:
For we are free at last,
Free from fear,
Free from war,
Free from the past and free from the future.
Only the present bothers us;
hence the locks on the door preventing "undesirables"
from entering or leaving.
(To guard the present moment)
Like Jericho of old,
no one comes and no one leaves.
Inside our compound we are happy.
We rejoice – with fire and flame,
with parades and picnics, with song and – if we're lucky – with sex.
Only the gates are locked,
from dusk to dusk and then to dawn,
as in an old movie.
Inside our fortress, dogs bark freely, proclaiming liberty throughout the land.
They are happy.
They can sing; they are in Paradise:
The Land of Canine, where no one enters and no one leaves,
And children wave flags,
and adults place pennants on their cars
and we all sing a song of freedom,
along with our dogs, and our children, and the parking attendants,
along with the soldiers on guard duty at the closed gates of city and country
On Reaching 50
I look into the mirror, holding my wooden comb like a knife.
My father's eyes stare back at me.
I have his nose, his fleshy mouth,
his goatee beard, his smile.
My teeth are my own.
Raising my arm,
I comb my hair abrubtly forward.
The Moon Song
Back in camp we greet the invisible new moon on trust,
though why is not altogether clear.
Dark as death the heavens give us no sign, or perhaps
they do and we do not yet understand.
Like a virgin the moon hides its future;
she could go either way.
But we, the children of the unredeemed, cannot wait.
Released from the thraldom of Sinai we go mad.
Beneath your waning face, we dance around a gleaming calf
as though it could give us milkshake and cheese cakes eternally.
Mindless, we do not see the soldiers of Nebuchadnezzar surrounding our camp.
As Tammuz ends so Av starts, only worse.
Now the moon joins in our weeping.
Denying the Land, spying on ourselves,
we have sinned against the universe.
Nothing will go right. Temples will fall.
We shall perish in Warsaw.
From Genesis to Genocide, we are condemned.
This is the song of Av – the month of the father –
that the former slaves sang when they were denied
visas into the doubtful land:
"To go through the world
making no mark,
like crossing a desert without
leaving a footprint.
A life of sand."
Once runners ran from the Sanhedrin's gate
to announce the coming of the New Year.
Now there is no Sanhedrin
and the runners run elsewhere.
The runners run everywhere except to you.
They are running into study houses and the synagogue
shouting Gevalte! Yidden! Moshiach Zeit!
But no one listens.
Those in the study houses are no longer lovers.
The lovers are no longer in the synagogues.
They are in their houses, or in hotel bedrooms.
They are in the fields or on the beaches.
They are in other, less holy, lands.
They are surfing the web, and sending e-mails.
They are in love with the raw world as it is.
Your children have returned
but you do not recognise them.
Many of them do not recognize themselves.