My thoughts contradict each other,
Not because of their logic
But because they go off in different directions,
The comedic and the tragic.
Because they fly into my skull
And descend into my guts
Because they swing me into extremes
Of chromatic sharps and flats.
And only a man with a spear,
A shield, a powerful stance,
Can welcome these warring contenders
In the arms of turbulence.
As winds collide and rage,
And twist and pull at his eyes,
At their heart he sees their quiescence
And the sun at the core of the days.
I guess the stars are high
But I can’t see them any more
I saw them once in Vermont though
When I was my own ancestor
And I am comfortable
In my underground cave
Beneath the city and the tree
With no need yet to be brave.
Before I see the stars again
I must polish my glasses
Here with the glint of the quartz
Amidst the crevasses.
For all of the stars are crying
And one day I will hear them sing
Without any sound.
Truth doesn’t appear bit by bit.
It’s sudden, sweet and infinite.
Each log is split, a sudden thwack,
And then is added to the stack.
As you’ll see, if you follow me down into the cellar,
I’ve got them all categorized, each in its own particular barrel,
Trumpets, sackcloth, weeping willows,
Citrons, books, and a line of winter apparel.
And when I’ve got enough, or my merchandise is outstanding,
Eight day wonder candles or wine maroon or pale or
Medicinal bread, a ticket to cross the Black Sea,
I stand and wait in the hall of the wholesaler.
And I feel that I am alive, I thrive, I
Find a new classification, a new arithmetic to count in,
I see the laws of my commerce absorbed into one,
And I clamber my way up the mountain
Does knowledge make man happy?
What kind of knowledge are we talking about?
The kind that wells up in the throat
And crawls, trembling, to get out?
Or is the knowledge like a beam,
Or is it the knowledge that comes at night
Of a vastness that springs past a vastness,
The ground of darkness and light,
Or the knowledge of holy men
Who put their light into words
Like capsules that heat will dissolve
Beneath the down of gray birds?
A man is no more than a half,
He gathers the seeds of a culture,
He grasps at the world with his claws,
Lamb, lion, aurochs or vulture.
Do not grow wild like weeds
Seeking the sustenance of earth,
All of its tumultuous contractions
Of passionate convulsions and birth.
From your father take the wind
That seeks in the precipice and mountain,
From the natural field of your mother
Take the water that seeps from its fountain..
How, you may say, happy are you,
Or how holy?
How quickly will you stand up for yourself
Or how slowly?
I knew a man who had a knot
In his intestine,
He found a cave of light that he
Sometimes there is a leap from
One planet to the next.
Sometimes the freight ship drags,
Is even vexed.
Practice your metonomy and metaphors,
Look outside and in,
In your Spanish courtyard, play
Sweet secrets are displayed,
Wisdom and song,
Till the confection sugar stars
Rain down bright and strong.
Till the bread comes tumbling
From the skies
And heals the world’s deluded
Without wisdom, prayer is not much.
Why? The thief, about to touch
His sister for a loan, could tell you,
Or something about the policy he wants to sell you.
I guess that’s why. I guess that’s why it matters
That this whole damned planet’s been ripped into tatters
And the prayers rise up like little strips of confetti
Bobbing up and down alongside the jetty.
Why pray? Why serve God? Wisdom, won’t you tell,
Before the words go scattering down the causeway into hell?
Restore the nature of my soul, please do,
The faithful strength, the resurgent dew..
Twelve times twelve is a hundred and forty four,
Which is to say “hello” in Swahili or, what is more,
Which is to say “goodbye” in words that close the door.
The same result is gained by six times twenty-four.
Try it and you’ll see, or for that matter don’t, or…
At any rate, nothing worth being clever for.
The earth is dry and dark
It spins like a charred slag heap
All of its ruined monuments stand clear in twilight
Its wretched inhabitants show the lineaments of their faces.
Suddenly the lights blaze
And a rush of waves creates a living thunder
The land is bathed in crackling light
The coast dwellers rejoice in the never-ceasing thunder.
Each island has its own fruits.
That was the secret of the archipelago.
For many years, it was all one needed to know.
Each island has its own cascading flow
Of waters tumbling down the shining rock
That feed the valley and its rising flock.
Each island has its own time, like a clock
Impelled by seconds that burst with their own world
Whose hidden chambers are embraced, unfurled.
Each island’s fruits are wrinkled, pearled,
These are sweet and those are piquant, tart,
They mortify the mind, they swing apart.
They blend in some ancestral art,
Illuminate the sailors’ plain pursuits
And send a chattering among the monkey brutes.
Yaacov David Shulman