THE NEW CENTURY
The rest of the world is reveling: every hour
brings a new jubilation as each civilization
welcomes the prospect of a fresh start, a brave
new world. All you have to do is watch TV
to feel global fellowship and harmony.
Here in the holy land, where the first millennium began,
we guard our religious differences carefully,observe the Sabbath
by law, and refrain from public festivities. Bored, we
stay home with friends, or check out
the brassy nightclub scene on Allenby
where religious people do not go and young people
do their best to create imitations of western celebrations.
A stripper capped as Santa beckons
from outside the Millennium Club
in motions drawn from local belly dance,
revealing strips of nakedness to the chill air.
Lovely women in their kinky best
circle aimlessly about the boulevard
searching for a party worthy of their silver dress.
A group of teenagers beg us to take their picture
to have some memory of this empty night.
No one is waiting at the gates of Armageddon
for the War of Angels. Only a few pilgrims kneel
at the Manger or Nazareth or the stunning Sea of Galilee
to witness the Messiah’s return.
With such history, is there nothing singular
we can contribute to the world’s rebirth?
Listen, I whisper to the Canadian Broadcasting System,
The radio show that usually calls me when the bombs go off,
I know a girl named Shlomzi who wants to do Yeats’ Second Coming in Tel Aviv.
We’re going to visit the big stone lion at the end of Anonymous Alley,
read him the poem and watch him walk the two hundred yards
to Bethlehem Street to be born.
Yes! We want to be there for the event! They exclaim.
Live on radio, four of us gather in the miserable unlit alley
where the sad lion, commissioned long ago
to grace the way for the wife of a wealthy American
despairing of the desert existence of Tel Aviv
stands before the dark old house.
And while I read “Surely some revelation is at hand”
into my cell phone, and the others stand around
trying to look ceremonial, a couple saunter up the alley,
climb onto the lion, and passionately embrace.
“Is the lion moving?” asks Canadian radio.
“How can it move?” I shout into the phone.
There are two people making love on its back!”
The radio signs off with a chuckle and Shlomzi,
with high fever, has managed to crawl out of bed
and now glides up the alley to ask how it went.
I am no longer sure
if a Messiah has been conceived
on top of the lion
or in her glassy eyes.