Stumbling from the temple, half-blinded
by the glory of the Lord on his throne,
Isaiah looks up on Jerusalem
with bewildered eye. The sacrifice scent
fills his nostrils up, and a smoky haze —
half-woodsmoke, half-suicider’s C-4 —
makes illusory the visible world.
How can reality compete with that sight?
For a moment, he sees all times and places
folded as puzzles of origami,
original like a garden, like sin.
His lips, his tongue, still burn; the seraph’s coal
has scarred him, more than he realizes yet.
Already, vision fades, becomes rumor
and the heat-haze of incensed memory:
Fluid as smoke is the praise of Israel.
The rebbes argue in the porticoes
while the Romans crucify three nude thieves
on the skull-strewn col beyond the west gate.
Beyond the city, kahki-colored hills
crowned with settlements march down to Jordan
and the wilderness beyond the River.
Look, the chain-link barrier snakes its way —
serpent in a garden of bitter herbs
needing higher walls — through green olive groves
and Palestinian towns not yet razed
and Israeli towns not yet stillborn.
Cries of lamentation rise from the vale
where King Hezekiah’s funeral proceeds
with wailing from professional mourners
and David dancing in the muddied streets;
their shouts are smothered by the motor-highway
and the dispute of Christian and Muslim
over Sepulchre and Dome of the Rock
and whether the Jews belong here at all.
The man from Gezerim helps a stranger
that better men left bleeding in the road;
Josephus betrays his job for a job;
Egyptian and Assyrian march through–
six days, and Kadesh and Megiddo fall —
they lay waste to the country as they go.
An old man buries his wife at Mamre.
Isaiah, stumbling down the broad steps
from a temple more vision than solid mass,
more haze and holiness than hewn limestone,
cries aloud for the comfort of Zion
and the peace — yes, peace — of Jerusalem.
But the fullness of time is not yet appeared:
No, no peace, not yet, for this blood-bathed land.
Not yet, Lord… not yet.