At the lip of a cliff,
The cliff of a lip,
Letters tumble one
Over another, head-
Inside out, over, in:
Inside the self, out
Of the mouth, over
The lip, into the ear
Some fall soft, some
Hard, some fall short
Some long, some on
Deaf ears, some don’t
Fall at all but stand up-
Right at attention, at
Such a flighty thing, but
So concrete, weightless
But so heavy, formless
But with so many shapes –
Some crooked, some square;
Some straight, some round
There are blessings, letters
Coming together in love.
And there are curses, inks
Coming apart in hate. The
Cursed try to curse the pure –
It is part of their curse.
But the pure cannot be cursed –
It is part of their blessing.
Cursed men, men that worship
Everything false, men that cannot
Stand truth, for then they must be
True (to) themselves; men whose
Plastic existences begin melting
At the mere glimmer of holy warmth,
Can do nothing but curse, criticize,
Spite those that do not pantomime
In the fixed (but broken) game of
The cursed must threaten that which
They feel threatened by.
The cursed must pay lip disservice
To the sacred mouths that speak Truth –
Lest they be shushed forever.
You shall not curse the nation
For it is blessed
Ah, but do they not know that
The blessed cannot be cursed?
No housefuls of gold and silver
Can change what is; no wizardry
Or lip movement can profane the
G-d opened the mouth
Of the she-donkey
And it said…
Some lips are expected to move in speech;
Others only in chew.
O, but when they speak, we have no choice
But to listen:
Of all beings, it is but the human who has
The ability to speak truth – or falseness.
The human alone has the power to speak
Wisdom – or stupidity; the choice to use
The lip for good – or, heaven forbid, curl it
Up to no good.
All other creatures haven’t the free will
To say what they like (or dislike); only
What they know. The sun sings constant
Praise, lest it cease to shine. The tree remains
Rooted to the ground, lest it shrivel up and rot.
Is not a word in nature’s lexicon or vocabulary –
Nature just doesn’t have that luxury
When the routine changes, when the donkey
Speaks, when the sea splits, when the sun stops,
We call it a miracle. Miracle: when creation
Reflects divine eternity (it happens all the time –
Is it less a miracle for the donkey to walk than
For the donkey to talk? It seems as if frequency
Has spoiled us.)
Sometimes we need the ride to lead the rider:
When things seem cursed,
The world more broken than complete,
We need the physical to show us the spiritual:
Sometimes, when man acts like a beast,
It takes a donkey to say it the way it is
(Donkeys never lie)
Hearing the truth, even
When the messenger seems
Stranger than the message
The power to take a curse
And make it a blessing
Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at jakeyology.blogspot.com
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.