And What Is…

4 01 2010

Although it did one time,
No longer lies in that direction:
Custom has smoothed flat the sharp
And wayward spike of revelation.
The element of spontaneity
Has been erased by repetition
And sudden moments of inspiration
Have ossified into the bones of ritual.


Is this the world of which our prophets spoke?
They can still be seen, their dull descendants
Standing on corners, wild-eyed and anxious
Holding up traffic with their bearded revelations
Still stopping passersby, doomsday and justice
Still criticising the world that rejects them
But they no longer preach with the authority of wisdom
Kings no longer listen to them
Armies no more go to war for them
No longer do the sages pass the time of day with them
Thank God, I say.
Our prophets now, with their moth-eaten raincoats
Are most holey. They no longer speak
In hendecasyllables,
No longer compose verse nor orate with passion
They only speak of their own sad failure
And, instead of delivering truth to power,
They accept small change and anti-psychotics.

Could this truly be the world that our sages promised?
The world for which they laid down their lives?
A world of bureaucrats and politicians,
In which the diplomat trumps the king?
Our temples now are marketplace museums:
Places to go to escape from the office
Or places where the past is put on display
Where the old books are worshipped, with letters reprinted
But messages, misread, decaying with age.
There is a part of me that thinks that things were different
It was not always the same sad Now
Was there ever a time when we stood united?
Tradition says so, but I have my doubts.
A time when we marched like a thunderous storm
And brought the earth under our dominion?
Our kingdom was an everlasting kingdom
But the north seceded and the south burnt down.


It’s a fool, said Qohelet, who worships the past
But it was easy to say that: things were better then.
Now, familiarity makes dull the knife of reason
Makes mantras of epiphanies
And slays the proverb with repetition.
I hold this Bible in my tired hands:
How I wish that I could read you
Again, for the first time.




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