Time was, we had to be cautious
since the dead world could quicken
and anything was always inexplicably
about to become an animal:
bare dirt birthed worms,
toads sprang full-blown from muck,
and nothingness bred mice
from stale bread, cheese, and a corner.
We now know that’s not the way of it:
life’s not spontaneous,
but always it’s the product of
some effortful seed
and some intent or accident of sperm;
life breeds life, and furiously
goes on living.
Red shriek the poppies in the green fields of Poland.
Death lies in wait in the black forests of Poland.
Wheat rots, unharvested.
The reapers are all dead.
However much their mothers starve
The children cry for bread.
And frightened from their nests, the birds have ceased
To sing; the trees lift up their limbs for grief
And bow and whisper lamentation towards the east;
And when the wind takes up their sorrows like a prayer
And when they bow down like old Jews in attitudes of prayer
The broad, blood-sodden earth is shaken,
The stones themselves awaken.
This year, who will sound
The Shofar for the supplicants beneath the ground?
The hundred thousands whom no headstones name,
The hundred thousands God alone can name.
How shall they be entered into Heaven’s book aright?
Lord, we beseech you,
Let the prayers of the trees reach you
Tonight, as we light the last light.
I count not Pride, I weigh not Shame,
Do not distinguish Mark from Stain;
I favor nor Intent nor Chance:
The Accidents of careless Hands,
The weighty Musings of the Brain,
I embrace them each the same.