Randy's Corner Deli Library

04 October 2008

Days of Penitence and Awe


Days of Penitence and Awe

by David Lehman

In temple I prayed
and chanted Holy! Holy!
Holy! And was scared.

Father forgive me.
For what? For things done, not done.
The time I wasted.

For “scared,” read “sacred,”
its anagram. I am, said
the Lord. The terror!

The terror! Isaac
knew it. But do we? Faithless
friends exit the scene

after wasting years
playing Falstaff drinking and
praising his own past.

He believed in what?
In Prince Hal, who loved him but
had to reject him.

What do we believe?
Money money money said
Roethke and Lawrence.

We believe that life in
an office is hard work and
a cocktail at five.

We believe in pills.
Chemistry and medicine
can make us young. Vanity

fair as life is not.
We believe there are two outs,
bottom of the ninth.

Bottom of the night.
Vulgarity supreme, a
loud new century

of madmen in robes.
People have asked me what is
my favorite word.

I say “you.” Sometimes
I think the most potent word
in English is Jew.

O could I absent myself
from my daily rounds!
I would return as

the count of Monte Cristo
or Joseph revealed.
So I fondly dream.

Just so my mind roams
while the rest of me sits here
in temple and prays.

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