Alice O. Howell   



Speak tenderly of Jerusalem


Speak tenderly of Jerusalem!

Its nails transfix a womb of

unborn parchment.

     This is stretched out

between three testaments

and gives birth

with sharp cries of recognition

to an older, a far older covenant.


We come together with embers

to exchange the sacraments

in eponymous anguish.

    Every time we hold hands

surrender, cherish, kiss

our blind codes of passion

are erected

like new pillars of protest

in the desert of revenge.

    How dangerous is their anointing!




Speak tenderly of Jerusalem!

          We become when we touch,

we become the fingers of God

                   scouring the ancient holy ground

          plunging deep, turning over the blood

searching for what was risked and lost --

          It seems almost He has given up

                              turned away

                   that only we

can find the purpose and the peace

          in the wrenching screams of her labor.