Poems by the readers: The Vow

The following letters are poems submitted by poets who happen to be readers of and contributors to The Jerusalem Report.

 Esther Cameron protesting in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City (photo credit: Esther Cameron)
Esther Cameron protesting in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City
(photo credit: Esther Cameron)

Editor’s note: We dedicate the first to Gail Pinchot Goldberg, a wonderful artist who was David Goldberg’s beloved wife of 56 years and who was buried at Shalom Memorial Park, Illinois on December 12, 2021. May her memory be blessed!

The Vow

Ken and Ronit jogged upon the ochre colored stones,In Jerusalem’s dust filled morning light,Up paths to where many worlds collide.Sometimes they would race past ancient tombsTo find themselves within a shopping mall.And sometimes they ran down roadsNear ruins where Jewish kings had ruled.The boy and girl were friends amid these hills;Not lovers, though affection was the bond.Fresh and open, American as football on an autumn day,Ken had come the long way home and foundHimself enmeshed amid the Torah’s laws,A life which sparked his inner soul.Still, he could not refuse his morning run.A craving in his muscles urged him onTo show that he was both alive and young.And to impress Ronit when run was done,He’d drop to ground to do ten push-ups just for fun.Ronit was beautiful, as young girls are,No matter what their looks or social grace:Vital as a white tail deer in spring,She moved as if supported by the desert wind,As she ran from place to place.It was Friday when the bomb went off.Ronit was browsing in some boutique stores,As girls will often do, when money’s not yet spent.Another fate might have had her in her room,Thinking of a boy, or walking in another part of town;But not today when death exploded in the street,Shattering both windows and her dreams.They say that she was lucky. She only lost an eyeWhen shards of glass tore through her face,Ripping flesh in places where her cheek had been.While she was praying not to die just then,The medic found her lying in a pool of blood.Ken went to the hospital that very day.The damage to her face was greatAnd fear reached deep within her throat.But then a few words came and Ken conceived a wayTo ease the pain. So holding tight her hand,He said, “I’ll offer you my push-ups even now.Pick a number and it will be my vow to youTo do them every day until the time will comeWhen you can do them, stroke for stroke, with me.”With just a touch of malice for the eye she lost,She quickly replied, “Do for me one fifty!”One hundred and fifty push ups.More than he had ever done before.Ken was now observant of the law.So, he asked his Rebbe, if he must keepThis promise made with little thoughtOf how it should be done.Was this a sacred oath or just some idle words?Could he skip a day or adjust the number downWhen time did not allow?The Rebbe listened patiently, asked some questionsOf Ken’s health and state of mind,And then replied quite simply, “A vow’s a vow!”Ken does his push-ups six times a day.Twenty five per set for every day she cannot run with him.Within a year Ronit will have her plastic surgery.But trapped inside the hospital, she cannot seeKen’s offering of love to G-d and herThat he performs, nearby the Temple’s wall,Like ancient priest in supplicating prayer.And every time he touches down to kiss the groundKen hears his Rebbe’s words, “A vow’s a vow.”

David GoldbergSkokie, IL

Klitah (Absorption)

I have gone forth from the country of my birth,for the last time have heard the robin’s song,have looked at scilla’s blue upon black earth,for which the bitter winters made us long.But blackbirds here will whistle in the dawn,the almond tree console for winter’s chill,gray doves will throb, the hoopoe strut his crown,and jackals raise their voice in eerie thrill.And most I pray the Torah’s voice may fillmy ears, as daily through the streets I go,and the land’s air instruct me in the willof the One who gave me life, sustained me sofar – that Israel may absorb my mindand grant me breathe its freedom unconfined.

Esther CameronMa’aleh Adumimwww.derondareview.org      

Broken World

How can we fix a broken worldFilled with so much sorrow?When babies cry and women weepAs if there’s no tomorrow.Listen hard to feel the impulsesCrackling in the air.The winds, the rains and often snowTo answer life’s despair.The whole wide world will comeTo ground and feel it through their hair.See the birds, the sun, the cloudsArt is morning’s glory.And we continue historyEach day a brand new story.

Suzanne GoldsteinJerusalem

Decaying Truths

I writeAnd I’m never wrong.My craft is consumedLike soup slurpedIn haste,As I stubbornly moldThis pile of waste,While bystanders thirstIn line for a taste.These castles once stoodAs pillars of faith,These castles once stood;All that remains isFaith.

Tobias SiegalJerusalem