A Thin Red Line

Decay and archeology compete for supremacy
on this hilltop at Adulam which we visit

a day before the Hannuka festival
 

Here where the Maccabeans went about their daily round
mushrooms resembling stones now raise their heads
brownly watch our ascent, to gape into a low walled maze
of ancient streets and dwellings truncated between panorama
and wild anemone

 

We clamber into shoulder-high rooms now open to heaven

and falcon’s eyes, listen for echoes of bearded voices
long robed sandals that scores of page turnings ago
spoke our language to their children in accents of The Book
 

We descend steps into a sunken ritual bath, preserved somehow intact
where month-by-month, wives purified themselves

immersed in liquid piety and conjugal desire

Out into the waning light, we walk through halls of stone,

observing how a thin red line traces its path along the base of walls
snakes between brown mortar, around a chiseled boulder,

under mosaic layered stone, from room-to-room,

peering we recognize red ochre shards, fragments of pottery

set in place by some devoted hand, dividing the original stones

from those reconstructed by later hands

Descending from the ruins, the evening lights of Jerusalem on our right

and to the west, the gleam of coastal cities, a broken winking line

from Lebanon in the north to Gaza and beyond,

the Via Maris where so many armies trudged!

 

We think again about the thin red line that divides yesterday from today,
history rebuilt with faith rebuilt with care

as we, tomorrow’s children, celebrate anew this festival of light
amidst the gathering dusk

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© Johnmichael Simon

2006

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