Strange as the memory is for me now, the first words I ever got published were poetry. In the last few years, poetry has been a very sporadic pursuit. Yesterday, though, looking for an entirely different file, I happened on a poem I wrote nearly eight years ago, early in 2001, apparently after returning to the wellspring of Ferlinghetti, and that I’d since forgotten.
Watching a videocast from Washington last night, it seemed to me that half of what seemed impossible when I wrote this has come true: Across the ocean, where hope was written off like a bad debt, it has been reborn.
Here, in Jerusalem, one still has to dream of the very possibility of dreaming. The pseudonymous and very wise Jeremiah Haber chides for even considering the possibility. But I know of no biological difference that allows Americans to imagine a better future and prevents us from doing so. With some trepidation at daring poetry in a blog, I’m posting this.
I am hoping for the rebirth of hope
I am waiting for the beat of wheels on steel, the railroad drumbeat rhythm,
I am waiting for the long-distance heaven express.
I believe its time to lay tracks up to heaven
I am waiting for Jimi Hendrix to rise and climb on, for Phil Ochs to declare he’s retracted his resignation,
to rise all bones and anger banging a guitar and climb on,
I am waiting for the kids in the high schools to lay down their guns and climb on
I believe the generation born dead, raised dead, schooled dead in the malls’ mausoleum marble will pass
I believe with an imperfect faith, cracked but still serviceable, that a generation will be born that knows how to hope.
I am waiting for new songs unto the Lord.
I am waiting for new psalms,
I am waiting for a pied saxophonist to march through suburbs outside Jerusalem, leading away the houses with red tile roofs and the grownups, and leave children and rats on green lawns
I am waiting for heavenly choruses to lean down, lean down, and with each note the guns in the hands of the green boys on the streetcorners of Jerusalem will grow wings and fly off, long grey dragonflies, toward the sun setting in white foam off Ashkelon
I am certain the stillborn generation can come alive
I believe with imperfect faith, used, dented, two cylinders skipping, low on brake fluid but still driving, that a generation can be born that knows how to sing.
I believe that Moses, Blake, Abe Heschel and Reb Nahman are not dead, they are tuning their guitars in a back room and will be back on stage for an encore any moment, for the real show,
when the rabbis will shed their black coats like old snakeskins, the monks and the sheikhs of jerusalem’s alleys will dance half-nude on Jaffa Road, roaring the choruses, reaching up drunk and trying to pull heaven down,
I believe a seven year old girl with umm kalthoum’s reborn voice, voice of clouds and fire, is even now singing in a room without chairs without schoolbooks in south Jerusalem, there are no lights in the staircase, there is broken glass in the street, there are skeletons on the park benches, bones without number, dead men in the buses, dead women whispering next to the empty notice boards next to the empty storefronts
her song will reach out the windows, it will seize the bones, they will grow flesh, they will fold up the housing projects like card tables, they will dance in the fields, they will build a new jerusalem out of clouds and fire,
they will be a generation that knows how to hope.
I believe dreams sleep but do not die
I believe songs are hiding in the wind
I believe that the drumbeats of hope are curled up in the couches of our hearts and will awaken, must awaken
I believe the tanks will turn into hippopotamuses and lumber out of their bases looking for rivers
I believe we are only waiting, only pausing to take a breath, before a generation is reborn that knows how to hope.