Three went into the garden dark
where secrets are kept for keeping;
one returned and one went mad,
and one remains there, sleeping.
But who is the fourth who walks through flames
around the garden wall,
weaving forbidden holy names
into the fringes of his shawl?
In the beginning was the word,
and by the word all things created;
yet it is said (and I have heard)
that by the word shall the word
itself be abrogated.
So ’round and ’round the garden wall
walks the one who walks in flames,
listening for the third to call,
from inside that garden wall,
when he hears the waiting word
spoken from among his names.
The hermit of the marsh,
squatting in his thatchy hut alone,
painted his face with mud and chanted, Om.
Sounds among the yarrow stalks:
We searched for omens in each of these.
“What do you see” we asked.
“Nitchevo,” you answered.
“What do you hear?” we asked.
“Nitchevo,” you said.
“What? Do you see nothing? hear nothing?”
I neither hear the pumpkin shaking,
nor the bones breaking,
nor the bees drowing.
“But the stones, the stones,”
we say, “We hear them singing.
singing to the bones.”
* * * *
So now we wait again in this uncertain
hour, between the dark and the daylight,
when the Nightshade begins to flower
and cicada sing:
Hos-podi po-milwi. Has-podi po-milwi.
A lazy beetle rolls its dung across
the sky, while you and I gather moss.
Meanwhile, in another time and place,
the hermit of the marsh has flown his coop,
but left this note:
Be still, and know that I am gone
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om.
1ST OF THREE
— No, I said no, he said.
— Oh, so you say, she says.
— No, he says no.
Not maybe or . . . .[Selah]
What is that sound under the door?
— A baby crying,
— So says you, says he,
But to me,
it sounds like Esau, dieing.
— Damn yadada, yadada
shouts the man from down below;
and pounding on the ceiling with a broom
continues shouting from his room:
— Cut the crap and stitch the nine.
Time is money, money time.
That’s all I know you need to know.
— Ain’t that the truth, says Floe.
And hurry up, says she.
— That’s right; it’s time, says he.
So lay the mattress on the pea
and cover up the spindles,
cover up the glass;
fetch a pail of water to the door
lest dirty hands should pass
beyond the veil.
— Oy vay,
pants Mrs. Bloom, arriving late.
— Says Rachel Sweeny, palms upturned,
Would you like a plate? Something sweet?
— Well, maybe just a kuchen and a small glass wine,
nothing more. On such occasions, who can eat?
who are those other voices
coming from that other room?
— No is no, he says.
— You said I said I want Esau dead.
— What? Never! (Or hardly ever.)
— Did not.
— Did too.
— Says you.
— Ah, krikey,
never Jew a Jew.
“No. . . . not those . . . . but those,”
she whispers from behind her fan.
“What are they saying, those voices?
“Those ten? Did someone die?
“And if so, when?
“And if not, why?
“Who are those men,
“chanting. chanting. chanting?”
— Damn yadada yadada,
shouts the shouter once again
and curses God from behind
his evening paper:
DOG BITES FLEA,
BOTH DIE. (PAGE 10)
While down the hall and to the left
the Princess cannot sleep.
A lumpy mattress.
Too much pepper in the soup.
(The piglet sneezes.)
“Beat the child!” she screams;
but no one in the castle hears.
Instead, her dreams are wet
with tears and
And still the mad old King raves on:
Order in the court! Order in the court!
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now and ever will be:
world without end.
2ND OF THREE
Mrs. Bloom yawns in bed,
the wine still throbbing in her head.
Outside, three ra’ens sit on a tree,
each of them as black can be.
Below their perch there lies a Knight,
slain beneath his shield so bright.
With a down, derry-derry down-down.
“Sweet Jesus, woman,” Bloom had said.
“Give the child a crust of bread
before she dies
scuttling to the sea,
pluck out her eyes.
(They were beautiful, her eyes;
I wonder what in death they see
with a down, derry-derry, down-down.)
* * * *
Rachel Sweeny, nee Rabinowitz,
gathers seashells by the seashore
singing softly to herself,
gibt mier broit,
and thinking of the other night,
sighs and shakes her head.
“Well, he died and now he’s dead,”
“Or is he?”)
(Thinking always made her dizzy.)
“Has he gone to his reward?
“Has he gone to someplace safer?
“Is he living in the Lord,
“Who can know and who can tell?
“Life, it’s just a living hell.
“From attachment suffering comes,
“and hangs us, like Siddhartha,
“by our thumbs.”
* * * *
“Lilith!” bellows Mrs. Bloom
from between her rumpled sheets.
(“Imperious bitch! the other thinks.
But says instead, “I’m coming, mother.”)
“Where the hell’s my toast and butter?
Jeez-us, but her coffee stinks.
“And while you’re at it, fetch the dog.
“Where has he been?”
“Mother, Old Blue’s dead.”
“The hell you say,” her mother said.
“That can’t be right.
I heard him baying
“at the moon all night.”
Says Lilith from the bottom stair:
“Mother, mother, he’s not here.
“Old Blue died, he died so hard
“he shook the ground in our back yard.
“So I dug his grave with a silver spade,
“and with every spade I did call his name;
“I cried: Yah, Blue!
I cried, Come on, Blue!
“I cried, Hey, Blue;
you’re a good dog, you.
“I cried, Blue! Blue!
I’m a-comin, too.”
“Oh, well says her mother, “then it must have been you
“I heard wailing all night.
Now I’m in such distress
“that I can’t eat a bite
of my bacon and eggs.
“So throw them away or eat them yourself.
“I couldn’t care less.
Just turn out my light.”
And she did.
3RD OF THREE
In nomina Patri,
et Spiritus Sancti.
Around the well four sisters dance
(Kali, Lilith, Tinker and Chance)
“Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
“rise up, my love, and pinch the Host.”
“Four plus three plus two plus one;
“the sum is ten, our song is done.”
Protect us, Protector, from such as these
weird sisters, daughters of the trees,
who square the circle, ten by ten,
and spill the seed of sleeping men.
Protect us from the dogs that bark
in the silence of the dark.
Protect us from the Jub-Jub bird,
the Bandersnatch and Jabberwock.
Protect us, Mary’s little lamb,
David’s shield and Jacob’s rock.
Protege me, protegam te.
One plus one plus one is three.
And dost thou know who made thee?
Why the rooster crossed the road?
Why the princess kissed the toad?
Why the farmer in the dell
plants a row of cockle shell
with a candle, book and bell?
Why the Puss puts on the boot?
Why the shrieking mandrake root?
Largire mini us meum, ut te adiuvem,
the old crone croons, laying out the Tarot cards:
“Five of Cups, Five of Wands;
“The Tower and the Nine of Swords.
“Journey by water with a fool
“gains you the world, but loses your soul.
“Heed my words —
fast and pray.”
And signing the Cross, she flies away.
Cast the runes, turn the tricks,
blow on knots and pick up sticks;
swing the fowl above your head
by the neck until its dead.
Count the Omer, pray for dew,
consecrate the bread and wine;
He is coming, He is due,
as we near the end of time.
Brothers, sisters, dance with me;
both my hands I offer thee.
This way first, that way now,
then a curtsey and a bow.
— Pesach, 1998