September 27, 2004

In the Groves of Baal

(Who/What/Where — Posted one year after 9/11)

A friend of mine, who happens to be a Rabbi, introduced me — this Yom Kippur week — to a poet named A.M. Klein.

Reading Klein, you would think that he was alive and well. Instead, the pieces I read — railing about the current regime– we’re written while Hitler was in power. The illusion of timelessness and the clarity of opposition in Klein’s words directly contradicts the more fashionable understanding of that time. As my Rabbi friend points out, people wanted (and, apparently, still want) to believe nobody knew what was going on.

Klein has one piece that speaks directly to the failure of “the knowing” to challenge the prevailing account of things. It is called “A Psalm of Abraham, When He Harkened To a Voice, and There Was None.”

I only quote the last two stanzas:

O, these are the days of scorpions and whips
When all the seers have had their eyes put out,
And all the prophets burned upon the lips!

There is noise only in the groves of Baal.
Only the painted heathen dance and sing,
With frenzied clamoring.
Among the holy ones, however, is no sound at all.

These words stir the utter disappointment I’ve felt in the press (our alleged “seers”) and the Congress (supposed “prophets,” I guess) over the past three years.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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