What Must Be Done Again Today

by David J. Rothman

It was a time of happiness.  Each day
The sky would open like a great blue wing.
At night rain fell, a gentle rain.  We walked,
Just to feel the water on our skin.
You could almost hear the pastures drinking.
And it seemed there was a wedding every weekend,
Musicians and flirtations and delight.

It was a time of joy and olives.  Old buildings
Were giving up their wasted walls for new.
Whatever we believed in we began.
Cracked plaster fell to laughter and our work.
The broken bones were slowly growing back
Together in the city’s injured ankle.

It was a time of wine and song.  The fact
That it was not could not destroy that fact.
For underneath a skepticism’s wheel
Is the road on which it rolls.  The cold cry “No!”
Is still a word, its desert still a place.
Somehow, together, we dreamed of milk
And honey, sun and working in the sun.

It was a time of happiness because
While each day seemed to be enough to fill
Itself, it also would go spilling over
Into the next, and the one before, connecting
Work to work, and word to word, and even
Hunger to its end.  Like dance, each one
Became much more than a way to get somewhere.

So come, dear dead philosophers, and pause.
Remember us as your beards curl in patterns
Of complex sleep on disputation’s pillow.
Arise from the wreckage of the world, return.

Close your books and recognize yourselves,
Return to your senses, I conjure you, join us.
Come singing from your raptures for the dead.
Come with your questioning eyes and tapping fingers,
Your crooked fingernails and curious spirits
Which dance in circling waves of commentary.
Stand murmuring, make holy convocation,
And swear to satiate your souls with fatness.
Then let me ask you this: if not now, when?
We bow to you, our bodies bent like the bow
That fires light back from nowhere into nothing,
Because this is the time for praise, a praise
That sings beyond the genius of denials,
A praise for that which is, where we must go
If we would say even a single word.

Listen: there still is time for happiness.
Help us to wipe the sorrow from our brows,
If only the better to know it for what it is.
Then lend us your hands, forge keys, unlock the fields,
The very fields where we have made mistakes,
Where everyone has made such sad mistakes.
For who would deny that he has made mistakes?
Do not give up, let us try to understand,
To draw a map in words instead of blood.

Then, my sages, we could drink water and
Consider here the life that makes more life.
Our hands are on those leafy branches now.
Respond to the living dust you call to praise
And inquire what must be done again today.
Let the dead instruct the living, the living the dead.
Help us to know what we already know
That a time of happiness can come to be.