Meditations on Psalms 113-118

Music: Fantasia 1.
By Valentinus Bakfark. Sequenced by M. Behr at Kunst der Fuge.

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Copyright by
Nicholas Gordon

Meditation on Psalm 113

I feel you in the hollow of my heart,
But when I enter, you are not within.
I know you in the shadow of not knowing,
A dream I can no longer quite remember,
Your arms around me, my need against your chest,
But nothing more awaits me than the wind.

I wish that I could love you as of old:
The Lord our God, of whom I sing in praise,
Who sits upon the throne of my observance
And judges of my righteousness with mercy;
Who answers prayers, and raises up the lowly,
And quickens with delight the mother's womb.

I know you as a question with no answer,
A metaphor for being, or a curtain
Hung between the supplicant and death.
But truly I have turned away from you
As from a childhood home, my heritage
Fading like a star that greets the dawn.

Meditation on Psalm 114

When Yisrael came reeling from the ashes
To settle in this foreign promised land,
Return to Babel, squeezed among the voices
That blundered into English by and by,
The rivers of Manhattan, being tidal,
Reversed, and then reversed, as is their way.

For here there is no joy but in the heart,
No answering reflection of our passion.
The lilt of grass in spring is our own song;
The majesty of mountains, our own poem;
The promise to our ancestors, a myth;
The land of our redemption, the whole earth.

O love, that mingles all in one profusion,
Free at last to rendezvous at will!
As dogs of different breeds become the Ur-dog
That silent slipped into the caveman's camp,
So will we in America return
To those lost tribes who left our ancient home.

Meditation on Psalm 115

To whom do I give thanks, if not to you?
I wish to find the fountain of these waters,
The breath that gives its fragrance to this earth.
It cannot be that being is but being,
For deep within it we can glimpse the void;
Yet something moves like love across the heart.

I bless the bread, but bread has no volition;
I bless the wine, but wine cannot rejoice.
I bless my family, both before and after,
But they, like me, are fruit and not the vine.
Who, then, is there to receive my blessing?
For blessing being is like blessing sand.

To live without you is to live alone.
Even walking by the way, we speak
To someone walking silent by our side,
There or not. And so I speak to you,
My one-who-is-not-there, and seek your blessing,
And thank you for my love, if not my faith.

Meditation on Psalm 116

I would not beg for light except in darkness,
Or plead for pity but in piercing pain.
Happy, well-fed, housed, with ample savings,
And death a still far-distant destination,
I put my faith in medicine and music,
Quite capable of standing on my own.

I look at those of faith as grownup children
Clinging to their parent in the sky,
Believing fairy tales so fantastic
I cannot quite believe in their belief.
Nor can I see myself ever believing
That at the core of being there is you.

Truth, like beauty, must be free of interest,
Purely for its own sake, uncorrupted
By need, desire, even desperation.
Yet were I broken on the rack of life,
And in such pain I longed alone for death,
I know well where in torment I would turn.

Meditation on Psalms 117 & 118

Some say you may be wired in, a trait
Evolved to help the human race survive;
In which case even atheists must pray
Unconsciously, as sheep dogs might herd children;
In which case even I must find you waiting
Within the deepest longings of my heart.

Forget the many trappings of your glory--
The names, the miracles, the revelations,
The stories, signs and wonders, sacred days:
Within the thing is something more than thingness--
A father, mother, friend to whom I speak,
That I be not entombed alive in stone.

O let me move beyond your mere existence,
The doubt that stands between us like a wall,
And burrow underneath that fierce objection
To where we can converse, a quiet chamber
Still as early morning in the desert,
Lucid as a sunrise on the sea.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon

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