PSALM 18 – For persisting in the service of love.
The words of this poem, this very song, as spoken to Yah on day Love was saved
from the cupped-hand of misfortune, from the pointed-fingers of judgment, from Shaul.
“Compassion,” You said, “Is my power.”
“You,” I said, “Are my rock and refuge,
sheltering stone, safe shield and guiding light.
With poetic praise and sacred song, I acclaim your name,
and from ropes of despair I am saved.
Faced with a finite and futile life,
riverbeds without water sucking me under,
besieged by vanity and doubt, threats of death closing in –
from such distress, I call forth breath
to witness what is and hear.
You hear the outcry from your palace of peace.
Listening. Balancing the scales, leveling
the battlefield that will crown the one most fit to reign.
The earth, like earthing, may quake and spout fire,
shake the foundations of the lofty peaks, coughing smoke through nostrils
spitting fire from lips, cheeks glowing red like coals.
The fuse is lit. Now what?
A hint? A hand?
Tilt the heavens and watch the sky descend,
the toxic cloud fall to the floor beneath your feet.
Then mount and ride the feeling, the cherub
guarding the arc of your worst and your best.
Soar on wings designed to harness such gusts of spirit.
Make mystery your sukkah, your secret sanctum.
Clouds of unknowing, dark waters of the deep,
from these, spring everything.
Cloudy cover and beaming light. Polarity.
Flaming coals and hailstones. Polarity.
There’s no ‘either-or’ nor ‘never more’ beneath the booming skies.
Yah-and-Elyon as one gives voice to fire and ice alike.
Bolts of lightning, from one bow, many arrows above
and below, water-channels split-and-spread,
an expanding arterial web etched in the bedrock
underground, and in the twin-nostrils too.
Many breaths branch out from nishmat-ruach,
exposing unseen layers of soul-and-spirit embodied.
Waters from above converge in me, a messenger,
like Moses, drawn from many waters,
saved from drowning in the weighty woes of
a hostility stronger than me.
When my darkest day drew near, you helped me master the moment,
step out of reactive habit into an expanse
allowing desire for mine to realign with desire-divine –
generosity and Justice, restoring
gratefulness to my open, empty hands,
safe-guarding loving-kind service to others,
against the skewed judgments of small self.
How? Regular recitation of well-chosen phrases.
Ritual practices that train the mind to stay focused.
Lo asir memeni, “With musar-discipline, I’ll not be distracted from what is.”
This is purity to me, consciousness clean and compassionate,
non-judgmental. Righteousness restored, clean hands reflected in your eyes.
Be a devotee to learn devotion.
Become blameless by not casting blame.
With concentration comes clarity.
And with diversion, comes perversion.
You, with focused determination, will save this people.
Haughty eyes humbled light my lantern to shine in the dark
lending Strength that my steps may stride over fences, leap over fortified walls.
This is the way to wholeheartedness, speech refined,
guarded with discretion and a garden where honesty blooms,
where who I am is, is nothing
but a witness of wonder --
immutable pillar of sacred community erected.
Will you lend me the courage of a hero?
Will the journey make me whole?
Steady my legs, like a gazelle on high rocky crags.
Teach my hands to fight fairly that my arms reach-
and-bend like a bow made of brass.
You are right. Let this admission shield me, save me,
sustain and grow your humility in me.
This will lengthen the stride beneath me that my footing not fail,
that I be the one pursuing and overcoming this adversity,
that I not fallback until I can return,
like the contents of the ark, broken-and-whole.
‘A house divided cannot stand,’ it will be trampled underfoot.
And a hero’s courage in this combat?
A haughty me that bends at the knee sees worry and sorrow fly away.
Senseless hatred is vanquished when its clamor is ignored.
Shouting at love-in-hiding is no answer.
See the dust at play, making faces in the wind
sweeping empty streets outside the city,
free from the indefatigable infighting of people over power and fame.
If I am to lead, appoint for me a nation that knows me not.
Let this be my service. With balanced ear, let me hear.
Let the silenced and estranged bring their whispers to me,
allowing alienation and confusion to escape the enclosures of their captivity.
Breath of Life, Bold-Rock of Blessing, I exalt in your encouragement.
Better than vengeance against oppressors is the word,
the speech of diverse peoples standing in my stead,
freed from oppression, transcending even the violence of man.
And so, Yes! I acclaim you, through nations and changes
in so many languages, humming and hymning for your many-named sake:
“Magdil yeshu’ot malco / Extending respite and freedom to one-and-all,
Oseh chesed limshicho / anointed heads bent on acting in good faith with kindness
L’david ulizaro ad olam / to foster forever the offshoots of love.“
[following the lead of the sages, a 52nd verse...]
Oseh shalom bimromav, hu yaaseh shalom / Heavenly Peacemaker, make peace
Aleynu v’al col yisrael, va’col yoshvei teivel, / for us and all Israel, and all life on earth.