Samples from The Joshua Poems

How Come?

 

“How come?”  you ask these days.

“How come there are only two fire trucks

in the fire station? How come this park

is not a stony park and how come stony park

has a fire hydrant? How come you forgot

the shovels and how come hatikva is

on the other side of the tape?”

 

How come? I wonder. How come? How come?

Life is selection, I could say,

and every yes has its rhyme or reason,

all except for hatikva, which is always

on the other side of the tape.

 

But at night when I put you to sleep,

after we have read the stories we wrote

during the day about our day,

after I have sung you the songs from my book,

songs of evening and songs of wind,

songs of honey and thorns,

songs of hatikva including hatikva,

and after I have watched you fall asleep,

seen the ups and downs of your lungs

and your softly breathing lips at rest

become the very wind and evening,

become the smooth sweet brush of hand

that sweeps repose to the weary

and comfort to travail,

I want to tell you something else:

how come is hatikva, you are hatikva,

even the song hatikva is hatikva,

and little it matters if it is

on the other side of the tape.

 

‚Äč

You

 

After I leave you at school I think of our people,

a ghost people living in the valley of ghosts

buttressing the holy city

they nearly all swear will remain

our eternal undivided capital.

So they say as the rockets fall

and set fire to the country’s edges,

and so you will learn as you grow up

and move into the old city

of Torah and Talmud, chronicles and letters,

and get to see how our ghosts have learned

to outlast even God’s patience.

 

Perhaps one day you too will despair

of all that storied learning,

of never forget and if I forget,

and discover that history is only as good

as the bad stories we tell ourselves.

But for now you need not bother

with ghosts and rockets and lies,

and for now I do not concern myself

with how you will handle them when you do.

 

I lament not the world into which you shall grow,

nor even that grow you must.

For after I finish thinking of our people

invariably I think of you,

the nearly four year old lad who today

shot from my hand like a rocket

and ran down the street to his school,

an olive green hood in red rubber boots

that set the sidewalk ablaze

in glorious hallelujah,

flint of laughter and spark of sapphire

and flame of bush to the edge of my heart

that learns what it is to burn

and not be consumed.

This is the undivided city,

the old, the eternal;

this is you.

Beyond despair, beyond repair,

beyond all vows useful and useless,

this is you.

A song in my heart:

you, you, you.

It Is Very, Very Good

 

My grandson sits at his red table

and into his red bowl filled with yoghurt

he crumbles his piece of banana bread

which he then scoops by the spoonful

into his eager and satisfied mouth,

whispering to himself as he does so,

“it is very, very good.”

 

Of course it is good, my darling boy,

and even better is your blessing,

and best of all is the sight of your lips

moving over this humble miracle

as Hannah’s lips once moved

when she prayed for her son

and gave thanks for her son

and gave up her son

to the Lord.

 

Blessed is the Lord, sang Hannah in her heart,

for He raises the poor from the dust

and the beggars from their dunghills

and little boys from their barren mothers.

And we who watch her lips from afar

mumble along in the book of hope

wherein it is said in the beginning

that the Lord she blessed once blessed the world

as you have blessed it this day,

blessed it for the herb bearing seed

that one day would yield your hallelujah

of banana bread and yoghurt.

 

“It is very good,” He said

of the world He came to regret,

and the words of wonder remain

for ever and ever,

whispering our happiness.

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