First real snowfall of the year. The ducks kept flying up for more corn. . .
THE MESSIAH OF HARVARD SQUARE
Every year some student would claim to be the Messiah.
It was the rabbi who had to deal with them.
He had jumped, years ago, from a moving boxcar
on the way to a death camp. That leap
left him ready for anything.
This year at Pesach, a Jewish student proclaimed
Armageddon. "Burn the books! Burn the textbooks!"
he shouted to a cheerful crowd,
sang Hebrew songs to confuse the Gentiles,
dressed for the end like Belshazzar.
People stopped to whisper and laugh.
"I have a noble task," the boy explained.
"I must prepare myself to endure
the laughter of fools."
The rabbi was a skeptic.
Years ago he'd been taught, if you're planting a tree
and someone cries out, The Messiah has come!
finish planting the tree. Then
go see if it's true.
Still, he took the boy into his study
and questioned him slowly, meticulously,
as if the poor soul before him might be,
God help us, the Messiah.
Blood Honey, Chana Bloch, Autumn House Press, 2009, page 7.
Blood Honey is a stunning book by that excellent poet, Chana Bloch. If you belong to, or come from, a culture with religious beliefs (as I do) you have the material for a poem exploring a facet of that tradition. Notice how Ms. Bloch uses regular English language sentence structure for this poem. Nothing about it is "poetic" save for its arrangement into irregular stanzas and lines broken before coming to the right margin. Use the vocabulary of your tradition (as well as references to its history like the reference to the death camp train, and other references to Judaism in this poem) to explore a traditional belief. There are many things to write about; perhaps this one will surprise you with the strength it has. jhh