Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Poem for The End of Days

So, the world is going to end on Sunday. At least according to one NY preacher. Why are so many of us so anxious to contemplate the end, to believe that in our lives, apocalypse? Every time there is a natural disaster - flood, earthquake, tsunami, fire, even disease - the end-of-timers and religious freaks claim that God is punishing someone for something. Whether it's New Orleans, Haiti, Japan, California, natural disasters are their god's version of Sodom and Gomorrah. It's just another form of greed. I'm better than anyone else (gays, adulterers, atheists,...) and I want my 'just' reward. Throw everyone else into the pit. I want my white velvet cushion next to Jesus, my angel wings. Anyway, I'm making plans for next week.

Of course, the whole end of times on May 21 announcement did spawn a poem or two. Here's one I wrote this week called, for now, Mercy. It probably won't make it into any book, but it felt appropriate for the time!


I suppose I believe in evil,
   or I believe in it at least as much as I do
in divinity,
                 and perhaps a little more than I believe

the world will end
this year on May 21st, which was the message
printed on both sides of a sign held high by a paunchy middle-aged man,

red hair thinning, at the east entrance to Grand Central Station.
Through the white
                                he’d washed over the cardboard

I could make out the words this side up.
He stood there
all day. I know this because I passed him on the way in

to catch a train, the way out ten hours later.  Nietzsche wrote
that weak men invent gods
because they need to punish themselves

for not being born powerful. They resent
the whip-wielding elite
and make up stories of sin

to explain the scars on their flesh. The red haired man spoke
as I walked by. He told me,
the day of rapture

is the end of God’s mercy. I believe in evil
at least as much
as I do in Dickens or at least in his Oliver Twist,

who never once in Dickens’ story held back a quid for himself.
I don’t believe anyone is that virtuous.
            Nietzsche suffered

a mental collapse just three years after publishing his theory
of good and evil. They say his last act was to throw himself

between a worn-out horse and its owner who was beating
it to death. I don’t believe
    anyone is perpetually punished.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Day of Regret

Today marks Memorial Day (Yom Zeekaron) in Israel. Last night, there were ceremonies across the nation, or at least across the Jewish portions, honoring and remembering Israel’s fallen. The dead and injured are not considered martyrs, every mother, every wife, every father, every husband, every child, prefers their loved ones returned. Many of the televised memorials feature interviews and biographies of the bereaved. There is no joy in any of the deaths.  There is a sense, however, a knowledge that those deaths are close to all of us, they are unavoidable, they could be any of us, of ours.

At 10AM a horn sounded, everyone stands at attention, if they are driving, they stop their cars and get out, if they are sitting, they stand up. For two minutes.

My step-daughter, who turns eighteen in five months and enters the Israeli army next year, was in charge this year for organizing the memorial for the fallen at our neighborhood’s community center. Inside, songs and poems written by Israeli pop singers, poets, and even a waitress about war and loss were written on posters and nailed to the walls. None of the words were jubilant.

The Scouts (the Israeli version of boy/girl scouts but more intense) had assembled a tent, laid out two cots, army uniforms, waiting, it seemed, for the missing soldiers. There was a guitar laid across one of the cots.

Pictures of all the men and boys from the neighborhood who’d died in Israel’s past wars and confrontations lined the walls. Most of the pictures were snapshots taken by parents, perhaps girlfriends. Only one or two showed the soldier in uniform.

I had errands to run today, which took me an hour longer than usual due to the traffic backed up miles, the cars parked on the sides of roads, near the military cemetery.

There was not a single Memorial Day sale.

What am I trying to say? I don’t know. It was/is a sad day. It is a day of remembering. It is a day of honor. It is a day of regret.

Tomorrow is Independence Day (Yom Ha-Atsmaoot). Tomorrow comes the jubilation. Today is a day of regret.