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Laurance Wieder

Stranger in a Strange Land

And last, and strangest, there had come into my mind a vague and vast impression that in some way all good was a remnant to be stored and held sacred out of some primordial ruin. Man had saved his good as Crusoe saved his goods; he had saved them from a wreck.

This issue, we have a guest column in the form of two psalms as rendered by poet and translator Laurance Wieder. They are part of a sequence entitled "The Jerusalem Psalms." An excerpt from an earlier book that Wieder edited and introduced, The Poet's Book of Psalms, appeared in the very first issue of Books & Culture, September/October 1995.



The earth is hollow, and has jaws.
Mountains topple whole into the ocean
Heart, which boils, bubbles.
Where I stand, a river turns
The heart into Jerusalem, a stream
Of thought into God's house.
Though day break, strange crowds enter roaring,
Batter at the doorposts,
The temple will not fall. Fear
Froze us in our tracks, but melted at a whisper:
God is with us.
Earth is full of life. Two broken
Armies in the field
Smoked destruction, engines dead,
Cars turtled, spinning wheels.
Silence comes before and after,
In the empty space around us,
And is with us.


Who Else?

But the Lord rebuilds Jerusalem, Collects the scattered, castoff, brokenhearted Seed of Israel and knows how many Stars there are, and calls them all By name, and hears the answer. We can't describe how music works Or know the time of clouds, rain, mountain grass. Cattle graze there, crows pick Through what horses leave behind. A rider, strong enough to pass through air, Needs more than skill to master fear. When earth becomes Jerusalem, praise Doors that keep the north wind out, Your children warm inside, with bread, fruit Of the plain unrolling thunder, tables Where wool snow blankets ashes' frost Nip hail-sown buds of cold. A glance. They melt, soft breezes streaming water. Only ...

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