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Hugh Fox - April 2010
Hugh Fox - April 2010

Hugh Fox just hit 76, has 105 books published, mostly poetry. His most recent poetry book is The Collected Poetry of Hugh Fox, 540 pages, just out from World Audience. The next one to appear in La Paix/Peace from Higganum Hill Press. Born in Chicago, B.A. and M.A. from Loyola U., Ph.D. in American Lit from U. of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Has taught for years in Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, etc., married to Peruvian Lucia Ungaro de Sevallos for years, now married to Brazilian Maria Bernadete Costa.  

The following work is copyright © 2010. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

  

Hope

"We can start all over again..."

          "But the holy places, the temple, the holy places..."

          "We can rebuild them, or even take them apart and then put them back together again in Brazil."

          "But that goes against our whole tradition."

          Abraham getting up and taking a small replica of Israel in his hand, placing in on a wall-map of Brazil, part of a whole-world map that covers the whole wall.

          "Exactly the right size!  Israel practically disappears in the Brazilian jungles or (placing it on top of Michigan, Northern Canada) there’s so many possibilities, so much land, why live in the midst of ancient enemies.  We can start all over again, or, I should say, have continuity of Faith and discontinuity of Country.  WHERE isn’t everything, but WHY is!"

          "But will the Knesset agree?  All the super-traditionalists?" asked Joshua, one of the great powers in Israeli politics, all beard and hair, Mr. 10,000 BCE.

          "They can stay behind and get bombed."

          "Maybe I’ll stay with them."

          "Then I can go alone to Brazil.  Or maybe just Brooklyn."

          "That’s the point, why have a holy country at all, why not just ‘vanish’ throughout the world, like the Jews in New York, Tampa, Chicago..."

          "They don’t disappear, look at them in West Hollywood with their ‘costumes,’ long beards, hair, hats, suits...hassidics..."

          "But others elsewhere."

          "OK, but who’s going to pay for the rebuilding?"

          Joshua sits down and takes out some gum, begins to chew, smiles, relaxes. 

          "First off, if Israel is in Brazil we can go back to antiquity, be Solomonic, whatever, everything as orthodox-strict as can be.  Travel back in time to TRUE TIME.  And secondly, take Germany before Hitler.  Who had the money?  Just look at the pictures of the old Jewish mansions.  And Hollywood!  Check out the names.  And Wall Street!  We can get grants, donations, a kind of sacred God-tax...and the reason for Jewish success?  Services!  Belief in yourself, your God, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs...Einstein, Jews learn how to think, concentrate, they’d all want an end to the Amorite wars!"

          "Not the Amorites any more."

          "Whatever they are.  The Promised Land is the fulfillment of God’s promise.Now we can make another Promise, warless, no rockets coming in every day, total absorption in godliness daily, your whole life inside the promise, everything you did, didn’t do, your clothes, hair, food, your whole life drenched in godliness..."

          "But where’s God now? Why doesn’t He come back and intervene?"

          "He’s there...watching...watching us create our own promised land."

          Abraham going over to the cupboard and finding a bottle of kosher wine, filling two glasses. 

          "If we could finance World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran....."

  

          Fifteen years later, Abraham with an enlarged prostate, just had a transurethral laser-based prostatectomy.  A little heavy but OK, Joshua actually thinner, his wife keeping him on a diet.  Non of that Brazilian high-calorie stuff, Doce de Leite, Guava (Goiaba) Jelly, all the empanadas and Nescau, both Abraham and Joshua in the center of the New Jerusalem, a little walk together, Abraham lighting up a cigarette, then quickly scratching it out on the sidewalk. 

          "No more suicidal habits for me. One cancer’s enough."

          "I never understood anyone smoking anything.  The only smoke I enjoy is incense smoke...."

          Stopping, looking at the scene in front of them.  All the old temples and government buildings, like walking back through a door labeled Time.  OK, the jungle off in the distance, but it was easy enough to filter that out....if you wanted to.  And neither of them wanted to, preferred jungle to desert. 

          "I love the way they replicated the sense of antiquity," smiles Joshua. 

          "If it wasn’t for the heat and humidity it’d be a perfect total replica of old Jerusalem."

          "There was plenty of heat there."

          "But no humidity."

          They both smile as the go into the synagogue together,  Sabbath services already started.  Shabbat Shalom....

          The Rabbi blessing the lighting of the candles:

          "Baruch atta Adonai, Eloheinu melech Haolam, Asher Quidishanu Bemitzvotav, vitzivanu, lehadleek ner shell Shabbat.../ Blessed is the Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who hallows us with His Mitzvot, and commands us to kindle the lights of Shabbat." 

          Both of them looking around at the congregation. 

          "Such variety!" smiled Joshua. 

          "At least we can get along with each other," Abraham whispered back, thinking that eventually there would be all sorts of conflicts between the super-conservatives, hassidics, liberals, reformed, whatever...but in the meantime...this was what made sense out of chaos, towns full of restaurants and shops, moms and dads out with kiddies, antique shops; you want coffee, there’s two tons of places for it, wine, bagels, walk-places, park-places, theaters, universities, music departments, theater departments, always something going on,  Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy, amazed at the Jewish talent over the centuries, here, there, everywhere, the secular somehow always turned into the sacred so that a bagel with cream cheese became ‘sacramental,’ if you’ll pardon the term, and then you come to the Schule, let the Yiddish survive, a little survivor-history, and it’s Our Gang, Shalom, Shalom, Shalom, Peace, Peace, Peace, he couldn’t be happier than to be a witness to Israel, after millennia of conflicts finally having moved into permanent...he almost always thinking ‘eternal’...peace. 

          Sermon time, Rabbi Baroff all long-bearded and bald, gowned and with his kipa making a little black oasis in the middle of his baldness, standing at the pulpit, starting out in all solemnity. 

          "We cannot thank God  enough for what we have. I don’t want to be repeating myself full-time, but today’s Torah portion is all about the ancient Jews versus the Amorites, God on our side, our right to kill the enemy and take their land and livestock.  Thank God that the endlessness of tribal conflict has now ended and we are finally at peace..."

          Tears in his eyes, not dribbling down his face, but there for a moment, surprised that he was still capable of such reactions at a cynical, feeling-doomed seventy-five, remembering Cantor Wetzler during what seemed like centuries before, saying to him, when he asked about the possibility of an after-life, "We know there’s SOMETHING, but we don’t know WHAT..."

          When suddenly the lights went out, the fan over the altar stopped, the air-conditioner stopped and there was enough sunlight to see, although it was cloudy outside, unusually so, and suddenly the Rabbi stopped, looked toward the back of the temple, Abraham turning around too. 

          "What the...."

          A huge, thirty foot tall devilish-looking monster walking into the back of the synagogue, huge eyes, a gold crown around its tall, extended head, fangs, huge fangs. a pitchfork of some kind in its hand, its body all loosely clothed in grey cotton, Abraham thinking that there must be a "team" of guys inside, on top of each others’ shoulders, to make it so tall.  And then on both sides guys in shorts with blowguns in their hands blowing some sorts of darts into the congregation, the ones they hit going down, sprawling, struggling for a few (Abraham counted 1-2-3-4-5) seconds, and then they were gone....

          Before they got to them pulling Josh down, down to the floor, amazed at his agility, usually all stiff and un-agile, but this was IT!  Down! Josh playing the game, whispering "Play dead...," and they did, both of them, the growling, drum-beating stopped, moments of screaming, and then ocean bottom silence, without fish...Joshua moving, Abraham holding him down, closing his eyes, actually almost feeling asleep, asleep or dead, he hardly cared which, kaddish, kaddish, kaddish, pray, pray, pray for the dead, was he going to end up on the just-dead jahrzeit list? Then opening his eyes like he had just gotten out of a concentration camp and was on a boat to Holland, and Hitler had been shot or had shot himself, Josh out too, shook him, "OK, pal, it ought to be safe now...," only he didn’t move, Abraham got up and then saw it, one of the little darts in his forehead, talking to the silent temple, "Anyone else still here?"

          Silence, then once voice from up front. 

          "Do you really think they’re gone?" David Mitalmann, lawyer, very successful, loaded,  "I can’t believe they got everyone else but us."

          "Maybe some left.  I was out," confessed Joshua. 

          "So was I.  Like sleeping during takeoff.  Everyone else a nervous wreck, me always out."

          "What were they all about anyhow?"

          Abraham suddenly very awake. 

          "Yama, the Yama tribe, but they shouldn’t be here but close to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, you know, Tiawanaku, the Home of the Gods, which is where we should have gotten our territory in the first place...."

          "What’s all that about, ‘the ‘home of the gods?"  One God! Adonai! Mount Sinai...."

          " You haven’t read The Home of the Gods?"

          "Afraid not."

          "I’ll lend it to you on the flight to New York, if I can get back to my apartment and get it."

          "What about Israel?"

          "You’ll be surprised, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Juniors,  the best kosher Reuben in the world."

          Walking out, fearfully, but pretending he’s not, pretending it’s not Apocalypse Now but just one insane attack, out on the street everything calm, you’d think the security forces would be there, but everything just Shabbat Shalom...an empty Shabbat Shalom...still lots of steps back to his apartment, then the airport if there were any more planes, Kaddish starting to come into his mind, not only for the already dead, but for himself too.

          ...O-seh shalom bimeromav, hu ya a seah shalom, aleinu ve al kol Yisrael, veimeru Amen/...let peace descend on us, on all Israel, and all the world and let us say Amen. 

          The prayer for the dead not really for the dead, but merely praising God, for a moment his mind asking why the God who had passed them out of Egypt and stood behind them in another hundreds wars, hadn’t....and then that was gone too.