Friday, March 4, 2016

That Question

Poem for a Stormy Friday

"The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Tent of Nations, West Bank

I would extricate myself from all of this,
From the grievous pain in the woman's eye
As she recalls checkpoints and poverty
And her Dheisheh, the slum some call a refugee camp.
I would extricate myself from all of this,
From accusations and betrayal and,
Most of all, from the honest disappointment
In the voices of dear ones I offend.
I would extricate myself from words like
Nakba and Holocaust and anti-Semitism,
From angry parents who've buried children,
And gross generalizations about Arabs and Jews,
And anybody who spits at anybody ever.

I would extricate myself but, in your cell,
Somewhere, you ask that question that will not
Let me rest, that wakes me from my sleepy privilege.

I cannot extricate myself from this: not from
My respect for rabbis who risk and stand before tanks;
Not from my compassion for the woman at Dheisheh,
The gentle Sufi in East Jerusalem, the Lutheran
Pastor in Bethlehem who preaches love when
Walls rise sadly, cruelly all around him.
I cannot extricate myself from this: not from
This moment and these people and their pain,
And their request and my responsibility.
I cannot extricate myself from Rulah and Yael,
From Rami and Bassam, from Sam Bahour and Zoughbi Zoughbi,
From Neve Shalom and Dheisheh and Ramallah,
From Haifa and Jerusalem and the One who is One.

How shall the coming generation continue to live?