When you reap the harvest of your land, do not…
gather the gleanings of your harvest.…
Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.
Leviticus 19:9 – 10
This grip of patience, after the scythe
cuts in. Most have dropped – relieved –
into gathering arms – brusque, adequate,
but this foolish remnant holds their roots.
Perhaps they have made this calculation:
on the one hand, to become a clean-scrubbed
loaf on the landowner’s table, surrounded
by his ruddy children and their stout grins
On the other to be plucked by a strange
or timid hand, rolled right there for all
to start at their plump kernels shed
by unfluent palms, and the perfect snap
of a willing seed between hungry teeth.
For the meek inherit a happy earth.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs … of joy.
Every harp hung on a poplar
left a mute slew of fingers.
There was still the bread-making, the
laundry, the struggle with the tongue -
twisted rope of the well. Later infernal
socks to darn; still later typewriter keys.
Those, of all, came close to singing.
But even now, if you hold out your hands –
nails up – you will see them tremble,
ever so slightly. Like a tuning fork or
vibratoed note, remembering, trying.