Page 27 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

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KABAKO FF / ABRAHAM SHLONSKY
19
formative influences in Shlonsky’s youth, surfaced in his last
years. T he poet of secularism who had lost his faith in trans­
cendence could not completely cast it aside despite his poetic
protestations. His trust in positivism and human values had
been sorely shaken by world events.
Prior to his passing in May of 1973, Shlonsky prepared for
the press his last collection of poetry,
Sefer Ha-Sulamot
(The
Book of Ladders, 1973). Utilizing the biblical symbol of the
ladder, which occurs in Jacob’s dream, Shlonsky sings of his
yearnings and of his desire to transcend the mundane world.
The poems are pervaded by the theme of personal loneliness
and the certainty of death. In one place he asks: “Are we not
the last page in a book which has been concluded?” Elsewhere
he finds solace in the fact that “the
niggun
is the last memory
of God’s conversation with His creatures before there was the
language of speech, that it is a blending of all the cries which
you silenced in loving prayers.”
The poet is concerned in his last days tha t his quest not
be misunderstood. Despite his iconoclasm, he was ever in
search of harmony and continuity on the basis of a revamping
of the past. His poem entitled “T he Tree Is All Its Ages” is
most revealing of his inner feelings in the eventide of his life:
I know not what those who are yet to come will say about me,
I fear: they will be mistaken about me no less than my
contemporaries.
They will taunt me with my verses
From the Fulness
And from the Emptiness—
W ill discern the
ketiv
and not the
keri.
Bu t the tree is all its ages,
A ll its maifestations taken together.
In comparing himself to a hoary tree, the poet emphasizes
that he is the sum of all his parts, tha t his work is to be seen
whole. He makes pointed reference to two aspects of his writ­
ing, represented by his volumes “On the Fulness” and “Stones
of Emptiness,” which express contrasting moods of hope and
despair. He uses the terms
ketiv
and
keri,
which are applied