The Dying Synagogue at South Terrace
Chocolate-coloured paint and the July sun
like a blow-torch peeling off
the last efforts of love:
more than time has abandoned this,
God’s abandonment, God’s synagogue,
that rose out of the ocean
one hundred years from here.
The peeling paint is an immigrant’s
guide to America – lost on the shore
at Cobh, to be torn and scored
by a city of luftmenshen,
Catholics equally poor, equally driven.
To have been through everything,
to have suffered everything and left
a peeling door. Yahweh is everywhere,
wherever abandonment is needed –
a crow rising after a massacre,
wearing the grey uniform
of a bird of carrion, a badger
waiting for the bones of life
to crack before letting go:
wishing the tenth cantor to die,
the synagogue to become a damp wall,
the wailing mouths to fester.
Too small. To be a small people
aligned to nothing is to suffer blame
like a thief in the night. Some activist
throws a bomb for the suffering PLO:
the sky opens and rains a hail
like snowdrops. Flowers for memory,
petrol for the faraway.
To define one’s land is to be a cuckoo
pushing others, bird-like, into a pit,
until at the end every national gesture
becomes painful, soiling the synagogue
door, like the charcoal corpses
at Mauthausen Station, 1944.
We who did nothing for you, who
remained aloof with the Catholic world
and would have cried Jew! like the others –
David forgive us –
we who didn’t believe the newsreels,
preferring hatred of England to love of you,
we might shut our hypocrite mouths,
we want a West Bank but not a Stormont.
We have no right over your batons,
having made nothing for you but L. Bloom.
To sit here now in the rancid sunshine
of low tide is to interiorize
all of the unnoticed work of love –
exquisite children fall like jewels
from an exhausted colporteur’s bag;
a mid-century daughter practises piano,
an étude to cancel terror; a nephew
dreams of the artistic life, another
shall practise law and become, in time,
the Catholic’s tall Lord Mayor.
Where these jewels fall beside the peeling door
let us place the six lilies of memory;
the six wounds of David’s peeling star.