Sometimes in the night I still hear it:
a gun, emptying itself into the fields,
a bomb, erupting in the vegetable market
as the first bargain-hunters arrive.
After all these sunburned, tired years
of fighting prophecy, battling Isaiah,
whose songs streamed into my ears at all hours
as I struggled to write my own world,
and swallow the sour seeds of cowardice
and let them be songs. The dead
poets have already left us
all they knew of earth
and flesh, and from inside
the thick white beyond,
they sing with whitened lips
and translucent throats:
Listen closely, mortal one.
To live is a form of music.
This piece is a part of the Berru Poetry Series, which supports Jewish poetry and poets on PB Daily. JBC also awards the Berru Poetry Award in memory of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash as a part of the National Jewish Book Awards. Click here to see the 2020 winner of the prize. If you’re interested in participating in the series, please check out the guidelines here.
Aviya Kushner is the author of The Grammar of God, which was a National Jewish Book Award Finalist, Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Finalist, and one of Publishers’ Weekly’s Top 10 Religion Stories of the Year. An associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, she is The Forward’s language columnist and has a lifelong love of the Book of Isaiah.