Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Passover in a Year of Modern Plague

Passover in a Year of Modern Plague

"What's true of all the evils in the world is true of the plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves”.  (Albert Camus, ‘The Plague’, June 1947).

In a time of plague,
 I watch the carnivals of hate
roll by, but won’t participate.
I shop. But fixed on red alert,  
I hide behind my Purim mask, now
sanitised; advise the salesman
that my purchases are few.

Perhaps something cooling
for a head that’s spawned
heaped coals on fire and
other stuff that’s extra soothing
for a throat shot through with

Once, my distracted mind insists,
on days like this, an ancient
king’s wise fool dared throw
the apple of his eye,
not on him, but at a mystic
man of science’s brow.
A-tishoo! A-tishoo! I can’t
buy a tissue. I must lie down.

Here’s time for holy
men to find martyrs many,
but forbidden to heal by touch,
their rooms are deserts –
lie arid, empty.

A Catholic Father clings to Jesus;
 What’s sickness, mine? What’s gone
amiss? Rav Mazuz bursts gay
folks’ pride. ‘Your way is community suicide’. 

Blind granddad is a tailor,
he sews at Alum Rock.
Sleek rats squat on his windowsill
tho’ he’s cut from finest cloth.

‘Hail’ – which may also
speak ‘farewell’ - come near –
but not too close – we’re all in this
together - but apart.
 All borders shut. So let us,
rather, gather at safe
distance on our balconies.
There, we whistle, stomp and
cheer ‘hurrah’ in humble thanks
to those who work to save us now.

No swarm of guests to lean

left about my heirloomed table.
No rosemary for remembered rue,
Instead, twice dipped, our new enslavement
will be forever etched in lineal pain.

Sand burdened winds scythe
unwary heads.  Forsaken
streets expose unblinking eyes atop
shuttered public places, sacred spaces
that shed unwonted tears as mustard-muddy
clouds scud by.

Killing of the First Born
No blood-streaked lintel, no
fragrant hyssop helps. God’s
messenger arrives to take his tithe.
Once only a kid, an enfeebled lion
learns he is to roar no more,
his work on earth is done.
So too, here, is mine.  

© Natalie Wood (24 March 2020)

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