Withered Hands

By Eugene Sigaloff

‘Jewish life is going on here in Hebron, and there’s
Nothing you, or anybody, can do about it!’
A settler’s words,
Pugnacious words,
Stiff-necked words,
Words behind a gun,
Words holding all the cards,
Mean words,
Hostile words,
Full of spite,
Full of spittle,
Streaming from a poisoned well.

“Jewish life” is
More than observant piety,
More than roots and identity,
More than kosher kitchens and circumcisions,
More than selective humanitarianism;
“Jewish life” is also
Suffering crystallized as malice, and
Malice warranted through the presumption of suffering,
Past suffering become a blinding alibi,
Righteousness become self-righteousness;
“And the crooked shall be made straight”:
The potter’s wheel of the human mind
Turns its cup,
The cup from which to sip
Its very own self-serving narrative.

Taunting the helpless,
Mocking the persecuted,
Justifying theft through folklore,
Sucking an entire people dry and
Accusing the victims of their wrongdoing,
The pretense of eternal abuse and suffering,
Playing the dumbfounded innocent when
The injured rise up to strike back:
This too is “Jewish life”.

“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.”
Words that flood the mind,
Repeated for generations,
A river of discontent,
A fouled flow of resentment,
Displacing reason,
Displacing truth,
Displacing adaptation,
Displacing understanding;
Can one forget what one has never known?

“These are your memories,” say enshrouded voices,
“These and no others.”
Memories swilled down like hurried morning coffee,
Memories stuffed into schoolbooks,
Memories forged day after day after day,
Memory as artifact,
Memory as product,
Memory as myth,
Memory as swindle.
Memory that never was.

“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.”
Would not a withered hand be better than such ill-starred fixation?
Would not a withered hand be better than collective dementia?
Would not a withered hand be better than a withered soul?

Israel must become “an iron wall of Jewish bayonets,” said Jabotinsky,
Honest Jabotinsky,
And his dream came true!
An iron wall of Jewish conceit,
An iron wall of Jewish self-deception,
An iron wall of tempered ignorance,
An iron wall of Jewish intransigence.

Think of mendacity: think of Israel.
Think of injustice: think of Israel.
Think of cruelty: think of Israel.
Think of arrogance: think of Israel.
Think of obduracy: think of Israel.
Think of delirium: think of Israel.

Israel: an avatar of egotism,
Following nature’s redneck politics,
Empathy nullified,
Generosity nullified,
Compassion nullified.

“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.”
What is real? What is fantasy?
Where to go?
What to do?
Let hands wither,
What is there to hold
When all of value is lost?
Listen to the other,
Hear the other,
Pray for forgetfulness,
Pray to forget the chains to the past—
Chains that, after all, are nothing but
Spun bitterness,
Spun venom,
Pray to forget the trap of endless retribution,
Sleep, and dream of being at peace,
Dream of being forgiven,
Dream of being reborn.

– Eugene Sigaloff contributed this poem to PalestineChronicle.com.

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