Page 21 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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13
HINDUS / JEWISH AMERICAN POETRY
ISRAEL
When I think of the liberation of Palestine,
When my eye conceives the great black English line
Spanning the world news of two thousand years,
My heart leaps forward like a hungry dog,
My heart is thrown back on its tangled chain,
My soul is hangdog in a Western chair.
When I think of the battle for Zion I hear
The drop of chains, the starting forth of feet,
And I remain chained to a Western chair.
My blood beats like a bird against a wall,
I feel the weight of prisons in my skull
Falling away; my forebears stare through stone.
When I see the name of Israel high in print
The fences crumble in my flesh; I sink
Deep in a Western chair and rest my soul.
I look the stranger clear to the blue depths
Of his unclouded eye. I say my name
Aloud for the first time unconsciously.
Speak of the tillage of a million heads
No more. Speak of the evil myth no more
Of one who harried Jesus on his way
Saying,
Go faster.
Speak no more
Of the yellow badge,
secta nefaria.
Speak the name only of the living land.
The reader may agree that for a
commissioned
work of verbal
art, produced to suit an occasion (as is expected from a laure-
ate), this is a creditable performance indeed. Shapiro is far
from organized Jewish communal life and has never visited
the land he celebrated before or afterwards, but his rhetoric
clearly has the pressure of sincere feeling behind it, and that is
why so long afterwards it still, to use his own word about it,
“stands.” This poem, to my knowledge, has never caught
the attention of anthologists or editors of textbooks (in virtually
all of which he is represented), but some of his Jewish poems