Writing poetry and praying are two forms of addressing ‘the absent’, but both forms of communication share a deep wish for mutual understanding and for kind feedback.
The absent element in Haviva Pedaya’s ‘one who speaks to the absent’, like those missing in many if not all of her poems, is the figure whose absence creates the open, painful wound from which her poetry bleeds with such force. This figure may be the beloved God or a beloved who is like God, and it is also possible that the connection between the two is not “either this or that” but rather “this and also that”.
Many people who long for relationships view the other, at least when first falling in love, as God himself. A few may actually see themselves as saviors, and the act of saving the other or at least the relationship as a divine mission placed on their shoulders. In both cases, when the lover views the beloved as God, and when the lover is a kind of God to the beloved, the relationship is a recipe for tragedy. The nature of tragedy is to make people miserable, and misery itself is not infrequently a spur to artistry, at least when talented people are involved.
On the occasions when people erase themselves for the beloved, and also in Pedaya’s poem, lovers lose the object of their love as well as themselves: “one who speaks of the absent/ his nature [is] nothingness”. Loneliness is the expected result of this loss, the same terrible loneliness whose face is the face of death, the loneliness about which the Finnish poet Sirkka Turkka writes: “I have nothing left but exhaustion the size of a forest.” But the choice to speak remains even in this desperate situation, to talk to a living wall that does not listen, to talk to the Western Wall, or the Wall of Tears or to the tears themselves. There is no hurry, for neither haste nor anything else will return the one who is absent, the beloved who is gone. But when the time comes, poetry and speech, in prayer and writing, are different aspects of one belief in the ability to win love back, or at least its memory, to arise with determination to meet the new day, to arise from the ruins.