The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Tuesday

The Jewish Time Bomb
By Yehuda Amichai
Translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kornfeld

On my desk is a stone with "Amen" carved on it, one survivor fragment
of the thousands upon thousands of bits of broken tombstones
in Jewish graveyards. I know all these broken pieces
now fill the great Jewish time bomb
along with the other fragments and shrapnel, broken Tablets of the Law
broken altars broken crosses rusty crucifixion nails
broken houseware and holyware and broken bones
eyeglasses shoes prostheses false teeth
empty cans of lethal poison. All these broken pieces
fill the Jewish time bomb until the end of days.
And though I know about all this, and about the end of days,
the stone on my desk gives me peace.
It is the touchstone no one touches, more philosophical
than any philosopher's stone, broken stone from a broken tomb
more whole than any wholeness,
a stone of witness to what has always been
and what will always be, a stone of amen and love.
Amen, amen, and may it come to pass.


A companion to yesterday's poem from Robert Pinsky's Poet's Choice column in The Washington Post Book World. The stone mentioned in that poem reappears here in the last poem from Open Closed Open. "Brooding once more on the carved word of assent, Amichai extends it over epochs of suffering to the universal last day," writes Pinsky. "These two poems meditating on the same symbolic object offer variations on a profound theme, but with some playful turns...the simplicity that resolves the second poem, in its way also understated, is not ironic. Wholeheartedly, in the last words of his last book, Amichai joins the voices he hears in a triangle of graveyard stone, voicing the most traditional of words."

Have spent a lovely morning and afternoon in Hanover with my in-laws, first on our annual trip to Hanover Shoe Farms where the mares have begun to foal for the season and the cats are hiding in the barns. Then we went to Conewago Chapel, now known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the oldest stone Catholic church in the US, which I have seen from the outside but never went inside before. The temperature was just slightly above freezing, ice still covering all the farms and fields, and on the way home after lunch we stopped at the Grotto of Lourdes at Mount St. Mary's to see how it looks in the snow.

A mare and her colt at Hanover Shoe Farms.

Several hundred foals are born beginning in January all through the spring.

This filly was a preemie. I hope it's warm can see the mother's breath in the barn.

These pregnant mares were outside in even colder temperatures.

But the little horsies seemed quite content out skipping on the ice.

Driving home was interesting because there was a big fire at a shopping center just north of Frederick...the exit to the street it was on was blocked from Route 15 in both directions, and traffic was pretty horrendous for a bit. We made it, though, and I got to watch Heroes and catch up on Rome...still have to figure out when I can catch this week's Battlestar Galactica, which does not appear to be On Demand, though I have no regrets that I was watching The State Within! This wasn't one of my favorite episodes of Heroes...loved Claire standing up to her father and Mr. Bennett appearing to be genuinely emotional over her misery rather than playing her, but I really don't like how easily Sylar is playing Mohinder and the Hiro-Ando storyline seems to be moving at a crawl. And I really did not like what a jerk Peter was being with Isaac, the "you're a junkie, Simone is better off without you, blah blah blah, which then turned into a gratuitous excuse for a stray bullet. Not just Nathan's power has rubbed off on Peter -- apparently his being an asshole has, too. I was terrified for a moment that they had killed Claude off, but apparently he's just having a tantrum and will be back.

Rome, however, was superb, from Pullo returning to his previous angst about how he's much better as a soldier than any sort of civilian -- with and without Vorenus -- to Brutus dying just the way he deserves, in a mirror of the attack he led on Julius Caesar. My favorite line of the episode was of course Antony's to Octavian, "You are a ferocious little cunt!" Though the look on his face when Atia suggests marriage is pretty priceless. But Antony is busy plotting the deaths of his enemies in Rome, so many that he keeps losing track. It's really difficult to feel sorry for Cicero, who's such a snob that the snobbishness he passed down to the man to whom he entrusted the message that might have saved Brutus' life causes the message to go astray...a bit too cute a coincidence that Vorenus' wife's illegitimate son runs into the road and triggers the incident that cements Vorenus' position, since with Brutus and Cassius dead, no rivals under their protection will challenge his hold on the Aventine. The execution of Cicero reminds me a bit of Stephen Frears' fabulous The Hit, where the executioner, a bit sorry to have to do it but not at all swerving, chats about food and the weather before suggesting the best position for a swift death. The Agrippa-Octavia love story doesn't do much for me -- I find it difficult to believe that she loves him so quickly, even if she lacks her mother's steel or her brother's pragmatism -- but I adored the Jews discussing Herod vs. whichever other dictator could rule Judea and the squabbles among the tribes -- there has never been peace in that region, no matter who was in charge.

It appears that my children will actually have school on Tuesday! That will take some adjusting! Meanwhile, best mention of Daniel Radcliffe naked in any news source I've seen in the past week, from Queerty: "Today is a big day for the gays. Not only are the first photos of Daniel Radcliffe's turn in Equus showing up, but New Jersey officially became the third state in the union to let folks like us get hitched." Whoo!

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