The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Saturday


Meditations on the Fall and Winter Holidays
By Charles Reznikoff


I

New Year's

The solid houses in the mist
are thin as tissue paper;
the water laps slowly at the rocks;
and the ducks from the north are here
at rest on the grey ripples.

The company in which we went
so free of care, so carelessly,
has scattered. Good-bye,
to you who lie behind in graves,
to you who galloped proudly off!
Pockets and heart are empty.

This is the autumn and our harvest--
such as it is, such as it is--
the beginnings of the end, bare trees and barren ground;
but for us only the beginning:
let the wild goat's horn and the silver trumpet sound!

Reason upon reason
to be thankful:
for the fruit of the earth,
for the fruit of the tree,
for the light of the fire,
and to have come to this season.

The work of our hearts is dust
to be blown about in the winds
by the God of our dead in the dust
but our Lord delighting in life
(let the wild goat's horn
and the silver trumpet sound!)
our God Who imprisons in coffin and grave
and unbinds the bound.

You have loved us greatly and given us
Your laws
for an inheritance,
Your sabbaths, holidays, and seasons of gladness,
distinguishing Israel
from other nations--
distinguishing us
above the shoals of men.
And yet why should we be remembered--
if at all--only for peace, if grief
is also for all? Our hopes,
if they blossom, if they blossom at all, the petals
and fruit fall.

You have given us the strength
to serve You,
but we may serve or not
as we please;
not for peace nor for prosperity,
not even for length of life, have we merited
remembrance; remember us
as the servants
You have inherited.


II
Day of Atonement

The great Giver has ended His disposing;
the long day
is over and the gates are closing.
How badly all that has been read
was read by us,
how poorly all that should be said.

All wickedness shall go in smoke.
It must, it must!
The just shall see and be glad.
The sentence is sweet and sustaining;
for we, I suppose, are the just;
and we, the remaining.

If only I could write with four pens between five fingers
and with each pen a different sentence at the same time--
but the rabbis say it is a lost art, a lost art.
I well believe it. And at that of the first twenty sins that we confess,
five are by speech alone;
little wonder that I must ask the Lord to bless
the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart.

Now, as from the dead, I revisit the earth and delight
in the sky, and hear again
the noise of the city and see
earth's marvelous creatures--men.
Out of nothing I became a being,
and from a being I shall be
nothing--but until then
I rejoice, a mote in Your world,
a spark in Your seeing.


III
Feast of Booths

This was a season of our fathers' joy:
not only when they gathered grapes and the fruit of trees
in Israel, but when, locked in the dark and stony streets,
they held--symbols of a life from which they were banished
but to which they would surely return--
the branches of palm trees and of willows, the twigs of the myrtle,
and the bright odorous citrons.

This was the grove of palms with its deep well
in the stony ghetto in the blaze of noon;
this the living stream lined with willows;
and this the thick-leaved myrtles and trees heavy with fruit
in the barren ghetto--a garden
where the unjustly hated were justly safe at last.

In booths this week of holiday
as those who gathered grapes in Israel lived
and also to remember we were cared for
in the wilderness--
I remember how frail my present dwelling is
even if of stones and steel.

I know this is the season of our joy:
we have completed the readings of the Law
and we begin again;
but I remember how slowly I have learnt, how little,
how fast the year went by, the years--how few.


IV
Hanukkah

The swollen dead fish float on the water;
the dead birds lie in the dust trampled to feathers;
the lights have been out a long time and the quick gentle hands that lit them --
rosy in the yellow tapers' glow--
have long ago become merely nails and little bones,
and of the mouths that said the blessing and the minds that thought it
only teeth are left and skulls, shards of skulls.
By all means, then, let us have psalms
and days of dedication anew to the old causes.

Penniless, penniless, I have come with less and still less
to this place of my need and the lack of this hour.
That was a comforting word the prophet spoke:
Not by might nor by power but by My spirit, said the Lord;
comforting, indeed, for those who have neither might nor power--
for a blade of grass, for a reed.

The miracle, of course, was not that the oil for the sacred light--
in a little cruse--lasted as long as they say;
but that the courage of the Maccabees lasted to this day:
let that nourish my flickering spirit.

Go swiftly in your chariot, my fellow Jew,
you who are blessed with horses;
and I will follow as best I can afoot,
bringing with me perhaps a word or two.
Speak your learned and witty discourses
and I will utter my word or two--
not by might not by power
but by Your Spirit, Lord.

--------

Happy Chanukah! Younger son's school winter concert was Friday afternoon, so in-laws came at lunchtime and we went with my mother, then after collecting older son, we all went to my parents' house for dinner, candlelighting and presents. The concert was a lot of fun -- son played one of the solos, Handel's "See, The Conquering Hero Comes" from Judas Maccabaeus (hence an appropriate Chanukah piece) -- there were also a couple of Christmas carols and the dreidel song as well as classical pieces and the inevitable "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Hot Cross Buns" for first-years. They have loads of violins and a decent number of flutes, cellos, trumpets and saxophones, plus an astonishing number of clarinet players, but not a single trombone, and the music teacher put out a plea for anyone who wants lessons.



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Older son had begged for game time at his best friend's since they haven't seen each other for two weeks and can't get together this weekend due to their schedules, so while he was there, we tried to distract younger son, who wanted nothing but for it to be after dinner...he kept pointing out that sunset was at 4:39 so we could light candles and do presents then, but cruelly, we made him wait while playing Happy Feet Uno and stuff. My mother made a huge dinner -- some kind of chicken in raspberry sauce along with the latkes, gefilte fish, etc. -- and then younger son finally got his Kirby Squeak Squad from apaulled's parents and an MP3 player from my parents. Older son got Yoshi's Island and some other games. I got a silver bracelet with Stars of David and Evil Eye amulets. My mother got my husband our synagogue's sisterhood cookbook, which cracks me up!

thefridayfive: Crushes
1. Who was your first crush? (Celebrity or average)
Matthew, my fiance from the time I was old enough to ask whether he would marry me until we were about nine.
2. Who do you currently have a crush on now? I've sworn off all crushes except celebrity crushes for the duration. If you have trouble figuring out which celebrities, see my tags list.
3. Have you ever become so obsessed with a crush, you went to extreme measures to find out everything about him/her? Ohh, yes.
4. Has your crush ever turned out to be your future girlfriend/boyfriend? I had a crush on my husband when we were both dating other people.
5. Did a best friend ever turn into more than just a friend? I really, really don't want to go there.

fridayfiver: Oops I did it again...
1. First kiss?
The first one that counts was David the hot German boy at theater camp when I was 16.
2. Underwater swimming or skydiving? Have never done either. Skydiving is higher on the list; I suspect I'm too claustrophobic for scuba gear.
3. Careful as you cross the street or never look both ways? Very careful, all the more so since I've had kids.
4. Ketchup: a vegetable? Be serious! Even when I was a kid and didn't want to eat my vegetables I never tried to get away with that.
5. Underwear - optional? Depends on what else one is wearing and where one is wearing it.

fannish5: Name five times that a character you dislike did something right.
Seven of Nine routinely did things right. Problem is they had to make Janeway (and often Chakotay, Tuvok, Torres, Paris, Kim, Neelix and the Doctor) look completely idiotic to make that apparent. In general, when I think of times characters I really hate did something right, I'm busy being annoyed at how stupid the characters I usually like were being at the time.

Not my favorite Doctor Who nor my favorite Battlestar Galactica, but they both had their moments. Liked the fantasy London Olympics with the Doctor lighting the flame, considering most of the Londoners I know are not thrilled about the anticipated traffic snarls, added expenses and all that; cracked up at the Doctor babbling about edible ball bearings and saying he isn't really a cat person after having been threatened by one in nun's wimple, and howled aloud when he showed off that he can do the Live Long and Prosper gesture. But it's a very sad episode at the core, really cementing the season's theme of how lonely the Doctor is, and if someone knows the backstory on "I was a dad once," please tell me -- I don't know Whovian canon nearly well enough!

As for BSG, I am sure there are people delighted to see Starbuck and Apollo committing adultery, but I really didn't need another example of ways Kara is messed up about relationships and was even before her Cylon episode...did she use that line about marriage being a sacrament and how she made a vow before the gods on Leoben? The Boomer-Sharon scene was fabulous, "You don't do that to a person, you do that to a thing, that's what your friends think of you, Sharon, you're a thing," and then Adama not wanting even to keep looking at Roslin when she says yes, the child was at her school...as I have said before, I cannot 'ship these two when there is so much shit they don't tell each other and so much shit they've done in the name of humanity that the other might find unforgivable, but when the dynamic is good, I don't care about 'shipping. Still not sure how I feel about the religious stuff...interesting as plot device but I expect bad allegories about faith and Fundamentalism, based on the stuff Moore wrote for Star Trek, so I remain wary. Bottom line: BSG is moving to Sundays at 10, and we'll see if I remember to watch or even if I'm in the mood for it after Rome.
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