Fit for a King

“Greetings and salutations rest upon this mansion which increaseth in splendor through the passage of time. Manifold wonders and marvels are found therein, and pens are baffled in attempting to describe them.”

 –Arabic inscription above the doorway of the Mansion of Bahji, Acco, Israel

Day and night craftsmen toiled
At the house near the bay,
Transforming ‘Udi Khammar’s new home
Into a mansion
Fit for a king.
Now a marble stair. Now a vaulted inner sanctum.
Now stately apartments veiled in velvet doors.
His family deserved nothing less.

When disease swept the land and took this man
Another moved in,
One with need of the space
For visitors, officials, pilgrims,
One Whose eyes were starved
For the verdure of its gardens.
One with need of paths that saints alive
And prophets dead could tread.

And now it could be told:
‘Udi Khammar’s improvements
Were never for himself,
Did he but know it.

* * *

They came home by the thousands, the children of Sarah
From Moscow, Warsaw, Prague, Madrid
Gathered on the hills and plains of Zion.
Fulfilled their own prophecies
Erected their own institutions
Affirmed their own identity
With a fortress built
For a venerable, imperiled race.

But here, where three continents kiss
Upon an ancient rock there grew
A new tree,
Sprung from a Seed that had been cast out,
Thrown away in a bygone age
When all this was but a garbage heap
Of a former king.

Now, hiding in plain view
In a new nation, a new creation.
The nascent civilization.
The new Order, thriving in the heart of the old,
The new Covenant, thriving on the hearth of the old,
Surrounded and protected by an unknowing guardian

And now it could be told:
Chosen indeed
For a task unsuspected
Did they but know it.

* * *

And are we all not fixing up a house?
And are we all not building up a nation
For greater purposes hidden from our eyes
Like wildebeests or whales or monarch butterflies
Carrying out the thousand complexities of a mass migration
Under the pretext of our own survival, success, glory?

But ever blind to the real import of our actions
As if the train were really for getting
From Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynnon
As if the internet were really created
For national defense.

And now it can be told:
That in all we do
And in all we are
We make the Earth itself
Fit for a King
Did we but know it.

The Telegraph

The ship crept north
Across the bay
Like a shark
Nosing toward the stone house
To collect the Heretic.

But for what?
To be exiled to the Sahara?
Cast into the sea?
Crucified upon the city gates?

Pacing alone in the courtyard, praying
Not to save Himself but for the highest good,
The Heretic was calm, resolute,
Steadfast as a rock,
As all around Him
Loved ones convulsed with grief.

Six and some decades gone
Since that May night when He was born
And also since that very day
In the world of things
The telegraph came on
Pregnant with all that it would bring.
In Baltimore it clattered away
A verse from Numbers
Morse had sought
From the Court Supreme:
“What hath God wrought?”
What indeed, or Whom?

The sun sets on that shark
And still it comes
Its lights now the eyeshine
Of a bloodthirsty wolf
It comes.
The wolf, rhythmically licking its lips
As the waves lap against the bow
It comes. It comes.

And then, what’s this?
A sharp tack to the west
And away it steams
Never again to stalk the prophets’ nest.

For in mid-sail it had received
A message from another court:
Young Turks had sacked their tyrant lord.
Now the commission had greater worries
Than a Thoughtcriminal
In a godforsaken backwater.

And what had brought this news
And spared the Heretic
A sadistic martyrdom?
But of course–
The telegraph.