There is no heart of darkness.
This impossible challenge-
as I continue to fail
and free fall;
to see You even here,
in this place, the darkness, in the failure,
in the “blotte” the mud, the self-pity and self-absorption
a lustful and angry place.
Why do I only connect with You in times of crisis
when I’ve nowhere else to go
no One else to turn to;
and in times of plenty, forget You so fast!
Like the Book of Judges never went out of fashion!
Not having learned their lesson!
Those Israelites repeat the cycle of intimacy and rejection
I follow in similar fashion.
Help me feel You even now-
when all the world’s literati rage against You
and the film makers write without You in mind
where the facts of history betray only Your absence;
Your silence in the face of mechanized slaughter and violence.
In both the Hurban of modern history “out there”
as well as the psychic drama of the wasteland within
I hear You not-
only the linguistic trace of You is left-
Your absence is palpable, like the darkness of the plague in Egypt
the gaping hole in culture and thought;
of what was once Your Presence
this vacuum, now filled with rage and violence.
In this space I now inhabit-all those possibilities exist in me too,
I no longer fool myself that it too, could not take place here, now, within me.
Once torn between Rav Kook’s idealism (or maybe wish fulfillment) and Kubrick’s nightmarish landscapes, Celan and Leonard Cohen awash in the foreground,
the Churban out there is now mirrored within.
Half man, half computer, man’s inhumanity to man
played out in all sorts of subtle ways-
even in the benign and benevolent institutions
like hospitals and hospices let alone schools and prisons-
even where we conspire to be good,
in the not-so- subtle forms of violence to the person.
My steel syringe plunges daily into the flesh as my patients lose sleep for the sake of vital sign documentation for reimbursement’s sake and all in the name of medicine, of course.
Yet in this inner vacuum (chalal hapanui)
a grey dark field of used machines,
broken prostheses, spare parts,
shells of once utility-filled technology
where safe emotions have no place
and fear and dread are the only currency
Precisely in this place Rabeinu demands we see You.
inviting us into the most difficult task of worshipping and celebrating
Your Presence and vitality in the desire of all that is present in its very absence.
This paradoxical state must occur in history as well as within,
touching the Presence even with the absent self
the wounded child groping inside
despite the feeling of absence or maybe because of it.
Having reached the bottom of the cave there is no further descent
the surface feels smooth and cold in the darkness
and here Your presence lifts me
and in the cool waters of the Mikveh I remain suspended like in the womb
of the Great mother.
Where I can no longer even initiate a movement from below
I must await His grace from above
suspended as I am in this in-between space.
Still unable to make that initial gesture
paralysed by the past.
Lifted by these waters I begin to feel
a power beyond me
and no longer in control I surrender once more
to reality as it is
the way things happened
the inability to change the self
to this power.
Nothing is suddenly made to have meaning
no great insight arrives
that might explain His silence
and the absolute fact of His toleration of the unspeakable
or even my inner violence;
Nothing new emerges
just the felt Presence
and that will have to do
By Jay Ungar
Jay, thanks for this poem.
Jay: What inspires you to write these poems?