Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Song of the Wandering Jew

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

Homeless as a Jew
I map the sedentary exile of a mortgaged room,
shed the stadtl of my thoughts’ diaspora,
burst the ghetto-gates of my imagination -
then pack my few belongings in a trunk of verse
and strike out for the open road.

This house is not my home;
this house is simply where I have chosen
to live out the long comfort of my exile,
the body growing slow and fat in England
while the mind roams the dark forests of Poland
and the heart patrols the ruins of Jerusalem.

Who but a fool invests his trust in houses?
Imagine brick and mortar protecting anyone
when the first stones are thrown!
Who but a fool would dare to set down roots
when any pesticide can deal with wandering jew?
Why even the nails on which we hang our hats
may one day turn and call us crucifier.

No, it is never our land that we inhabit;
for land cannot be owned
except in the eyes of other men -
and in our case not even there.
Why even the Promised Land is only ours by covenant -
and that not with God but with the United Nations.

Chased out of Eden by an angry proprietor,
with no time to pack our bags
(and nothing to pack anyway
since we were supposed to go naked),
the roads have always been our exile
and our sanctuary.

I look at all the fine houses in every town I visit
and I am staggered by their complacency.
What kind of naive optimism invests in a mezuzah?

Brick and mortar will protect no one
when the first stones are thrown;
no anti-Semite will be held back
by an icon on a doorpost,
the evil eye of Yahweh
hung above a bell.
The concrete tents we put up to protect ourselves
are an unprimed canvas
waiting for the insignia of our enemies.

I am he who roams the desert and deserted streets:
Odysseus of the hooked nose,
Jason of the shrugged shoulder,
Don Quixote of the horned temple,
Bleistein with a fat cigar -
eternal Bedou of the city’s sewer.

All roads lead to exile or to Israel.
I wear my hat at all times,
my shoes have no laces.
Blessed Art Thou O Lord Our God
Who Teaches Us When To Begin Walking.

"The Song of the Wandering Jew" is published in "Welcome To My World, Selected Poems 1973-2013", The Argaman Press. Click here to purchase the book.

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