Monday, May 9, 2011

Two poems for two days

Neither of these poems are what I say they are. The first, Billy Collins' 9-11 memorial poem, came to mind at the Yom Hazikaron ceremony we attended last night. When the list of the fallen that were from or somehow related to our yishuv was read, the last line popped into my mind. "So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart." It is true of 9-11, but no less true of the life story of the State of Israel. That's how it feels, so many names, so many lives lost, stolen, given to protect our land. 22,867 soldiers who lost their lives defending the state of Israel and 2,443 civilians who were murdered in terrorist attacks. Of the 25,310, 183 were lost this year. If only next year not another name would be added.

The Names - Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name—Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner—Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O’Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening—weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds—Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

We will never let these names be "wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory." We keep them alive as we remember their sacrifice.

And then we somehow transition to joy and celebration - Yom Haatzmaut. This poem was the one that woke me up, that struck a chord when we were realizing that maybe we really did want, need to live here. It was as if the poet know exactly how I felt, understood the intense draw of the land. So now it is a Yom Haatzmaut poem, one that makes me know how lucky I am that we understood the pull and acted on it. This is our undeniable historical, spiritual home.

The Thread - Denise Levertov
Something is very gently,
invisibly, silently,
pulling at me-a thread
or net of threads
finer than cobweb and as
elastic. I haven't tried
the strength of it. No barbed hook
pierced and tore me. Was it
not long ago this thread
began to draw me? Or
way back? Was I
born with its knot about my
neck, a bridle? Not fear
but a stirring
of wonder makes me
catch my breath when I feel
the tug of it when I thought
it had loosened itself and gone.

So Happy 63rd Birthday to the State, reishit tzmichat geulateinu. Moadim l'simcha, l'geula shelaima!


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