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Babylon

rivers of babylon

The rivers of Babylon rush and fall and sweep away.
O holy Sion, where all is firm and nothing falls!
We must sit upon the waters, not under them or in them but on them; and not standing but seated; being seated to be humble, and being above them to be secure. But we shall stand in the porches of Jerusalem.
Let us see if this pleasure is stable or transitory; if it pass away, it is a river of Babylon.
                         – Pascal,
Pensees, 459.

It wasn’t much at first. A sagging step,
Exaggerated bend of knee, the way
She’d reach with fluid motion and then stop –

I even caught her once before the well,
The water’s calm the perfect reach and scope
For vanity to hold her gaze… When ill

She’d sit a lot and take her rest instead
Of work – my own affliction could not tell
Of Sara’s lesson: Abraham was dead

And God no longer talks to us in signs.
Tradition filled my mouth but weighed like lead
To trip my tongue. So she would sing the lines

Of David then: God, our king before time,
Hath wrought salvation…
Now my mind inclines
To all kinds of hints: so the steady flame

Within the temple’s precincts trembles at
The shadows. Brother priests do not esteem
My company. Still, incense rises, mute

As priests and fathers suffered Babylon:
Now I too wish to sing with strings and flute,
To dance with timbrel like the halcyon

Who swoops and dives above the river’s flow…
So God’s own messenger, who stood upon
The altar, was pleased to let this father know

He’d be waiting on the porch of Sion.

Comments

  1. Big Jon Bully says:

    Meant to heard, not read. Great poem.

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