PREPARING TO LEAVE JERUSALEM
I love the way the evening light
washes pink and gold across stone.
If I could freeze this moment in time,
would that ensure I wouldn't forget
the call of mourning doves, the sound
of muezzins, church bells ringing holy
as Friday shifts from profane to holy,
the streets streaked by dimming light
and from high apartments the sound
of blessing rings out across stone...?
Jerusalem, I don't want to forget
although I know I will, in time.
A seven week journey: not much time
to figure out what makes here holy.
(And as for the politics? Forget
understanding, honestly, in light
of the conflicting stories...) Stone
reflects voices, ripples of sound.
I want to believe my thinking is sound
but I second-guess myself from time
to time. Someone throws a stone
and we lose what it means to be holy.
Refugee camps are short on light
and their inhabitants won't soon forget
as we, too, swore not to forget
glass breaking, scrolls burning, the sound
of wailing... But maybe the light
of this bright desert, the passage of time
can heal all of our wounds wholly
so we can finally drop the stone
of suffering we've carried. One stone
at a time, forgive but don't forget
this place, Eliade's axis mundi, is holy
no matter what languages sound
here at this moment in historical time.
This is meant to be a city of light.
Across the stone city, prayers sound.
I won't forget what I've harvested this time.
Holy One of Blessing, let me bring light.
This poem is going to be cross-posted at the Best American Poetry blog sometime soon. (I've had trouble posting there in the past, so this time I emailed the poem to one of the bloggers there who's going to post it for me, though I'm not sure exactly when; they're putting up a fabulous set of posts by Americans in Mongolia this week, so Jerusalem may seem downright unexotic by comparison.) But I wanted it also to appear here in full. So here it is.