Days of Atonement

The great Giver has ended His disposing;
the long day
is over and the gates are closing.
How badly all that has been read
was read by us,
how poorly all that should be said.

All wickedness shall go in smoke.
It must, it must!
The just shall see and be glad.
The sentence is sweet and sustaining;
for we, I suppose, are the just;
and we, the remaining.

If only I could write with four pens between five fingers
and with each pen a different sentence at the same time-
but the rabbis say it is a lost art, a lost art.
I well believe it. And at that of the first twenty sins
that we confess,
five are by speech alone;
little wonder that I must ask the Lord to bless
the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart.

Now, as from the dead, I revisit the earth and delight
in the sky, and hear again
the noise of the city and see
earth's marvelous creatures-men.
Out of nothing I became a being,
and from a being I shall be
nothing - but until then
I rejoice, a mote in Your world,
a spark in Your seeing.

by Charles Reznikoff


  1. Claudia,

    it's interesting that Reznikoff articulates almost the same atonement theme as is found in "sanza mezzo". The poetic sentence written by the "just" (pure of heart) can only be "sweet and sustaining" once the physical shackles have been cast off.

  2. Conrad,
    Thank you for pointing that out.
    Both men of God.

  3. That would be an interesting study: the influence on their poetry of Judaism & Dantesque catholicism. Their devotion to sacred text would have made them friends.

  4. Yes, I believe they would have been friends.
    I wish my father had been in University - I think it would have kept him alive longer to be with intellectual people. He had no friends except Cid.
    Was born in the wrong time I'm afraid.

  5. Claudia,

    a lot of artists/writers lived very lonely lives: it happens to the very sensitive & creative. The work makes them withdrawn and perhaps even a little distrustful of the world & people around them. German Romanticism labelled people like that "beautiful souls".

    From the only conversation of your father's I've heard I see him as a very wise & compassionate man whose views came to him after a lot of study & deliberation. His friendship with Corman would have only encouraged him. As for the university scene, I can tell you from personal experience that it can be a very hostile & competitive environment with no room (ironically enough) for independent thinking. In fact, it's actually made me very anti-academic.

  6. that would be interesting and
    this just might seem to be a bit os a "stretch"
    (but I don't think so)
    add to this 'mix' some Edmond Jab├Ęs

    The Book of Shares The Book of Questions Rosmarie Waldrop's LAVISH ABSENCE
    (especially The Book of Shares)

    as far as University goes my attitude ... only go to school to learn what you can't learn on your own like plumbing

    My mother (b 1915 grew up in the hebrew Orphan Asylum in Manhattan

    the Reznikoff's used to come to the socials there .. I once asked my mother ... a few years ago before she lost her memories ... (since her dad had a horse-cart and sold bolts of cloth, needles, etc

    in Manhattan

    "did you happen to know Charles Reznikoff?"

    "Oh yes. The Reznikoff's always dressed nice. they were in clothes ((meaning haberdashers)). and That Charles... he was a good dancer."

    hang in

  7. Thank you gentleman for your kind words and comfort.
    Conrad, I like that phrase, "beautiful souls" and Ed, thank you for sharing your past about your mom.
    It is wonderful to have two sweet souls such as yourself to share my father's past with.


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