Mizmor L'David Anthology 

 

Poetica Magazine
                                           Contemporary Jewish Writing

Helen Bar-Lev was born in New York in 1942 has lived in Israel for 50 years and has had over 100 exhibitions of her landscape paintings. Six poetry collections, all illustrated by Helen.  She is the Amy Kitchener senior poet laureate and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2013.  She is the recipient of the Homer European Medal for Poetry and Art.  Formerly Assistant President of Voices Israel, Chief Editor of Voices Annual Anthology, and Overseas Connections Coordinator. She lives in Metulla, Israel.

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Ah, Moses
Helen Bar-Lev


Ah, Moses, what a task you had

shepherding us unappreciative Hebrews

through the perils of the desert,

the heat, the sand

not a tree, not a bee,

no flowers, no showers,

not a speck of sea

not a hint of humidity

 

insisting we persist

despite the monotony of landscape

the tedium of a forty year sojourn

no art, no library,

no variety of diet

nor of climate

not a pinch of privacy

 

commanding we understand

that idol worship is passé

that monotheism is the only religion

that law must rule the land

 

no wonder we thought privately

that bondage was preferable to

wandering this desert

an attitude unacceptable

 

and so only those born

with no slavery memories

were permitted to complete

the dreary journey

 

and you, Moses,

who saw the Lord

and received the law

and led us Hebrews

to the promised land

upon whose border you perished

and into which we passed

without a pause

 

what a reward,

for forty years of leading

such an unruly band

to the land of Abraham

only for its door to slam

in your face

what a disgrace!

 

just look at us now

slurping milk and honey

depleting the Sea of Galilee

strewing plastic debris all over the country

squabbling still

impatient as usual

behaviour inexcusable,

at every opportunity popping on a plane

for an excursion abroad


Ah, Moses, tell us,

three and a half millennium in retrospect,

do you ever regret it?