Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Poem Of Protest

To listen to an audio recital of the poem, click here

"The Face of Death" -
one of Bernhard Aaronsohn's paintings
from "The Flaming Sword"

A Poem Of Protest
To The Colloquium on Jewish Literature
March 1984

   In Jewish Quarterly Volume 31, Nos 3/4 - the “old Jews” declared that the “new Jews” could not and should not write about either the Holocaust or the Exile, experiences they had not had and therefore could not properly comprehend. This poem was submitted as a “Letter to the Editor”, but never published.

On the day that I came out of darkness 
Holocaust was History,  
Diaspora defunct, 
Exile ended, 
the stage at Auschwitz swept and emptied, 
the poems of Isaiah returned to literature 
by half a generation wanting, 
half a generation fearing, 
to forget, 
or simply to misremember.

On that day was Ha Levi’s sanctuary 
half rebuilt, and Ibn Ezra’s dream already 
turning sour among the dunes and wadis 
and the bee-infested combs and coombes. 
I grew up learning about 
citrus groves and Bergen-Belsen, about 
Delilah’s hairdressing salon, about 
Mengele’s dental surgery, about 
Dreyfus and the Shabtai Zvi, about 
the wisdom with which Solomon decreed partition.  

And it was all just history. 
I hadn’t been there. 
I hadn’t lived through it. 
I had neither died nor - worse - survived. 
My hands were clean, 
my heart untorn, 
my conscience untroubled - 
what business of mine was any of this?

How could I write about it then, 
exiled in the English language 
that I only half believed in, 
speaking Hebrew in Mizrachic drawl, 
uncertain of exact meanings in my translations 
of Nachmann and Givrol and Bashevis Singer?

History was a stage for scholarship, 
to be reviewed, critically or uncritically, 
whether in newspaper or in Midrash.

And because I came out of the wrong darkness, 
because I acted upon the wrong stage, 
because I studied the wrong documents, 
because I did not experience the events, 
because I did not hold the bequest, 
but only the inheritance,

because God brought me out of Egypt, 
and out of Babylon, 
and out of Bergen-Belsen.

"A Poem Of protest" is published in "Welcome To My World, Selected Poems 1973-2013", The Argaman Press. Click here to purchase the book.

Copyright © 2014 David Prashker
All rights reserved.
The Argaman Press

No comments:

Post a Comment