Why I Can’t Write My autobiography

Anyone who has ever lived
should have written a little book.

The anonymous dead are unread.

The next time you take a walk
shaded by enormous trees
think of the rotting leaves
you kick out of the way:

life is deciduous.

What falls off
is often more brilliant
than what remains.

In the Zohar it is said
“great splendor.”
Every life is a spark
from the generator
every spark is an angel
who lives in eternity
only an instant—
that instant is a man’s life.

And the great splendor
of all these lives
sparking into space
as if every color in
the aurora said,
Look at me, look at me.

Just to consider an individual
even oneself, takes so much effort
at distinction, it’s a wonder
we aren’t blinded by the glare

as Isaac was, who lying on his back
on a heap of burning wood
forgot his father
in the presence of the Shekinah.

His eyes grew so dim
he could no longer tell
Jacob from Esau

as I no longer can tell
who exactly I am
when I feel the brilliance
of those around me

because the desire to merge
with angelic voices
makes life lucid.

The only way you can
see through yourself
through this thick body
these ungainly bones
is in the presence
of an awesome light

“great splendor.”


Rodger Kamenetz
from his book The Missing Jew
Time Being Books, 1992

This poem was catalogued in Poems and written by Rodger Kamenetz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rodger Kamenetz

Mr. Kamenetz retired from Louisiana State University in 2010 as the Erich and Lea Sternberg Honors Professor and as an LSU Distinguished Professor. He held a dual appointment as a Professor in the Department of English and in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. He has four published collections, and his poems have appeared in 25 major anthologies as well as in leading periodicals

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