O let me steal a march on time
For Eternity’s sake and thine.
To gain a day
While the moon and sun hold sway.
And with a single heart,
Neither wasting, nor forfeiting
My allotted part before the chime.
To know all my work done
Ere the hammer’s stroke,
That slays the running man,
Who from his sleep a woke
To find that time is no more.
Let me not,
As in my greener days,
To scatter random moments along the way.
Let me not descend
To merely eat and drink and walk upon the earth,
To make my bed here as if it were my home.
Touch me with thine angel’s hand
That I would measure out for you
Each grain of sand.
Make me alert and ready to the test.
Not almost or nearly,
But wholly thy man.
So much for others rides upon my breast.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. Rev 21:23
As my eye revisits what I wrote,
What I saw on the auroric edge,
Of Heaven’s light kissing Adam’s artic night,
Light returns to where Eternity spoke,
In time’s shadowed valley—
And then to touch my heart and mind
With wordless Light beyond all imaginings.
A word writ or read is not the Light,
But holds onto the light,
To trace His thoughts’ thin tracks in time
That He might mark a place in me
Where memory may return to remember.
Before your glories and divine transparencies
Sunlight is as shadow,
Men’s reasonings as mixed tones of light and darkness.
Be quick and present to arrive in time in time.
For day will end when your Day beginss
And there shall be a sorting of universes.
One laid aside.
One folded up and put away
To be destroyed by fire.
One lit and let to live in Lamb’s light forever.
O, House of Assaracus,
House of Aeneas,
Listen to Jacob.
For shepherds, too, can teach
Ancient errant kings who err
The olden ways of even older days
And the perfect path to their true home.
Beyond Troy’s breached walls and broken bones of war
Their house was led to wander over land and sea.
Hear no more the clash of sword and shield, of axe and stone,
Nor rage and rout of armies.
All has faded to begin again.
On the narrow shepherd’s path
Leading from the city’s burnt and fallen stones,
Round and away they stole
Until Troy exhausted sank,
A spent and worn autumn sun beneath the hills.
The first rain, more gentle than cruel,
Washed them free of soot.
And set them free to sing their wordless song,
The tribal remnant’s sandal patter,
Leather and staff on stone,
The sounds of a sad muted hope
Of a defeated, yet defiant race,
A remnant set upon survival.
There, upon the narrow shepherd’s path,
The royal earthly father’s frame is borne upon the prince’s back,
Anchises, The patriarchal seed, carried in a father and a father’s son
As each is carried in the Father’s heart.
O son run your marathon over lands and seas.
All your brethren have been broken,
Bitten by Agamemnon’s swords and arrows.
You are our lone champion—
The last in this field still standing.
Remember, you are a Son of Troy and Hector’s brother.
You bare your father and your father’s woes,
And his hope, a hope beyond human longing:
A curse’s end and new beginnings.
Upon your shoulders is a fallen king.
By your side walks a pitiful band,
A once great kingdom reduced and ridiculed
To blood, tears, and ashes.
Who can bury the king’s curse
Without burying the king?
O bronzed prince,
The burnish of your Age is green
And when your noble heart is gone
Your world will molder more.
Yet, do not cease to war.
Wade on. Wait. Wait. Wait.
Wait until the Age of Iron,
Not the steel of Rome,
But for the unconquered carpenter among the conquered,
The worker in wood and hearts.
He, like you , will carry all fathers and all sons,
Their sins and seed outside the city to begin again,
A cross upon his back,
The cursed thing carried by Love
Beyond the pale of doom and Adam’s wounds.
There is a Seed within all seeds,
And a law more ancient than the curse
Where mercy kisses truth to keep
Light and life alive
Within the darkened man—
A kiss without contradiction.
LET HIM WANDER NO MORE
‘If it had not been the Lord who was on our side…
then the waters had overwhelmed us…
then the proud waters had gone over our soul.’
In war and wars there is no rest,
Even in the right,
Only weary innocence and loss
And blood that weeps and blood that lets.
Jeshurun would not fight,
But rather rest.
And yet, and yet.
There is no going back—
Not to the right,
Nor to the left,
Nor Jacob’s return to late and other bittersweet sojourns,
Abodes all long razed,
Gutted by an enemy who pursues
Jacob’s tribes of wandering Jews .
In this our day
Look not to former friendly lodgings and estates.
They, too, have ceased to be your home.
And those who gawked your nakedness,
Amalek and his modern kin,
Who feigned sorrow and horror in the death camps’ stench,
Bid you blessing and a second Exodus.
What say they now?
Have they so soon forgotten Rachel’s children’s deaths?
Their reprieves and shallow groans are not so deep,
Nor felt in heart,
But mere sentiment born of shame
To be pinned upon a sleeve.
Ashamed for a season,
The little diplomatic leave they last let
Did cast you upon a shore—
Your Father’s ancient Rock,
That place of ancestral footfalls.
Be still and listen:
We hear their cadences marked by weighty steps and staves.
They call across the ageless past to rally Ariel and Jeshurun.
Has that Rock now become a sand,
And His ancient people washed upon a bar,
To be carried dead and drown before the tide
And the morning’s mourning crescent moon?
Nor fear the test.
It is time to believe the prophets.
Lift up your eyes and see.
There, in a cleft beyond the waves,
A mast, a yard spar crossed,
Yea, all the telltale signs foretell.
Lift up your heart.
A ship, a people—called, sent.
There is yet someone on the sea who sees,
And remembers the perils of Ariel.
There is One pierced who searches for you,
One who will not let Jeshurun stand forlorn.
There is One who will by wind and words
Stand against the rising waters.
‘O sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon;
And thou moon, in the valley of Ajalon’,
Stay the sea that it might be said again:
‘The Lord fought for Israel’.
Pontus Euxinus :
An ancient name for an ancient sea.
Back, back go the Black Sea‘s peoples.
You have carried me back beyond the Euxine Sea,
In truth beyond Pontus Euxinus,
To where my fathers rose and lived and rested
On that warm worn shore.
There again she sits beside the Czars’ summer sea.
Who are you, so strange and yet familiar?
And that I am here now,
And that we were there again attempting a new beginning—
Was that planned or a whim divine?
For all the summer’s suns and sums of times,
I see no sense or order,
Nor a way back nor forward,
Only a maze of Ages.
They are for You, O Lord,
A simple light delight,
A dream of little gods who reel and frolic,
Destined to dance across your brow,
Each in their own time and space,
Each to find their place,
Beyond our thin structures of thought and sight.
O the men,
The Viking eyes that south down the northern rivers rowed
To Pontus Euxinus.
I see their portages between the rivelets,
The sweat and blood and fear they shed
As they roved ever southward
To stand upon that warm and waiting shore,
That final southern beach,
And then reach out to they knew not where.
O the remnant of the Greeks, the Romans and the Jews,
And then the Slavs who met them.
Let the bards tell their stories that we might remember!
Back, back go the Black Sea’s peoples.
Let them sing of how they met
And how they bled each other.
How they all pressed upon each other’s flesh,
First with swords and then in marriage,
Bleeding and breeding,
In love and passions, cruel and kind.
On they tread.
On they wed, line into line,
To stamp out ever newer lineages.
Their ships they built of forests cut.
Who knew, who knows, how many little worlds were set afloat,
To seek, to drift—
Or for how long
They would wind round and round
In ever untightening circles the Pontus Euxinus?
Or the day they passed the Bosporus and island skipped and hopped
To kiss all the encircling shores of the Mar Imperium,
And then to pause and stay at the western gates?
But not Hercules nor his fearful pillars,
No foe or wind could break their westward gait,
Nor slow their outward bore.
How you enlarge our world and yet keep it small,
Returning to where beginnings begin.
My fathers mounted their sea’s stead,
And in strong hands held tight the reins,
Lashed their billowed sails,
Rode the broad sea’s back ever westward,
And brought us here
In the bark of my fathers’ loins,
Here to this new shore.
Chicago, Lake Michigan,
Again a son of Odessa’s sons
Stood on the shores of another sea.
With Alaska behind me
And the salmon runs over,
I stopped by my grandfather’s home,
In hope of returning to the beginning.
I asked, “Do you remember Odessa”?
“It was so long ago.
I remember I was 12,
And our shtetl,
And a cart,
And there was a ride upon an iron horse, a train,
And then a sail-less ship of steel,
And weeks and weeks at sea.
And then a city,
Tall as the clouds,
Its windows lit with stars.
I remember a woman,
Green like copper-gold,
Standing on the sea.
I loved her
And love her to this day.
I remember Ellis Island
And then Chicago—
All so long ago.”
“And Russia”, I replied?
‘No, nothing more.
Though not invited,
She came with us—a stowaway,
And mixed her mists and myths
In the dews of our New World’s day.
And we were working free,
Sleeping, eating, dreaming, loving, singing—
Out your father and his kind came.
Americans, I suppose,
Only more like you than me.”
Elliott Tepper 9-16-2000
Returning to New York from Russia and the Ukraine
‘To the unknown, unsung skald’
In the tower by the sea
The Baltic blew and wind swept clean the sea.
Leaving cold, blue-grey forests tall of memory:
The scent of wood and sail,
Viking iron, steel, cut pine, wet leaves,
And man fire.
What kind of men would live so near this sea
Whose winter chill thickens bones and hardens faces?
This wind grows strong men.
Not as fertile fields whose black earth
Bequests its riches,
The borrowed life of former things,
Moldering to be remade.
Not as humus, with sun and rain,
Blending elements into form and life.
This wind as iron sharpens iron
Calls up what has always been,
Wakes up the sleeping giants.
For little men are blown away
Or else made big.
Grows men as trees that will not bend nor break,
Mythic oaks as thick as houses.
This wind whips tides that race men to their home
Beyond the rim of earth,
Begets storms that drive thin open ships,
Whose tracks streak white on the white-capped sea.
This wind grows gales that gut the softness
From between men’s eyes,
Gives visions of distant seas,
Farther still than Garsec’s girth.
Here, wind pelted rains,
Half laden with snow,
Drench wool and leather,
Put will fire in fists and feet.
The keel ground sand,
And found its rest,
Stuck in a sea of grass.
The single sail and crossed mast shaft stood erect and real,
Casting a giant reed shadow.
So wind brought in
And left an empty ship,
Empty, yet full of men,
Coughed up from ocean,
Caught where the river runs to the sea.
Though their forms rise epic in the mist
Half men, half gods,
They are not mere twist of memory or shadow.
Though men, they are more than men,
More than legend.
And though not our race,
Their lives and hero’s deeds are our fathers’ pith and worth.
They are the sun’s golden kernels,
Which bring forth the full ear in time.
Believe me when I say:
They walked the moors, the heather, and the highlands,
Tore their ships from northern forests
To sail on star-lit seas,
Bore sons and daughters,
Lived and died.
From the raw stone tower,
From the empty sentinel’s berth I heard:
“You shall again one day meet.
I swear their story is true,
True, but grievous”.
But if so hard,
Why this pervasive beauty—
The maids of white silken hair and grace?
Why the children laughing,
The grandmothers cutting flowers,
And the old men dreaming dreams,
Leaning on their beached boats?
I see no quarrel in the Northern airs
Betwixt strength and gentleness.
Their yet untutored ancestral strains each year,
Along with nature’s winter’s roar,
Are blanketed and put to sleep beneath the snows,
To be muted in the spring’s loveliness.
Even then, before the time,
Surely some had seen Thy face in the cold Northern light
Or on the ice brittled sea.
Surely some had seen Thy hand waking the new year’s flowers.
I think this ancient mightiness
Would not raise its head
If it were not Thine to give,
The northern warriors not half so fierce or kind,
Without some untutored untoward love of God, and hearth, and home.
The sun stood still,
Hot and bright in the fair early fall.
For bare arms still bore the tan of summer.
I remember not August,
But something older, far away,
A hint of what had not yet come, but will.
There is a coldness in the Baltic air,
A subtle whiff of brevity.
I am not fooled by the gift of a late summer.
Nor will my longing to linger
Make it stay.
I might as well try and wish the tides away,
Or stretch to sweep each encroaching wave
From off the beach.
Who am I to cut and rend or amend
Nature’s or Grace’s measured ways?
There is a coolness awaiting me and all—
A Northerness I long for.
This I know,
And I am prepared,
Not a day to waste.
As I enjoy today’s sun and pleasantries,
I do not fear the solstice,
Nor the equinox.
For as there is a trough,
There is a crest—
Not one, but two.
April can be warm,
But I am told, at times, cold,
Cold in Jerusalem as well as Kiel.
The sun that darkened in the ninth hour
Turned the seasons inside out.
You remembered not the cold of earth,
Nor winter’s dread,
But something newer,
Eden’s older, better days.
In the black demonic cold,
Impervious to the chill,
You sweated Love’s drops of blood
Upon that skullish hill.
Then from one end of time to another,
From Golgotha to the Baltic steps of my stone stile,
The thief and I,
We heard the wind’s warm whisper in the cool of the day:
This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.
Elliott Tepper 17-10-94
At low tide and sunrise
My friend, the egret,
Each day wades in the shallows,
The tides permitting.
On long legs he seeks and waits the moon’s pull,
Twists his neck from side to side.
What he thinks, what passes before and through his eyes,
While he watches and waits,
I know not.
Each day he appears alone
And patiently lingers to sup.
His hours vary.
Why he tarries,
Who can know?
Perhaps it is not by sunlight,
Nor by custom,
But by the tide’s time he takes his cue
To bow and dig and eat.
Though long necked and legged,
And though hungry,
He cannot go beyond his depth or reach,
But waits the heaven’s dance
And the consequence of celestial attractions.
As the waters run past and through his legs,
I see the sea current paint its patterns behind him,
An afterthought of silver blue twirls and swirls of light,
Beauties and mysteries beyond both our kens.
He waits alone, no friend or mate.
Each day his vigil keeps.
Each day his duty done.
Each day complete.
He is an egret
And egrets were born to wait.
Elliott Tepper 12-2013
Beneath these grey hairs
And this wrinkled rucksack of a face,
I am a lion, still.
And just, just
Upon the edge of knowing
That place where songs are born
And prophets made.
At my post
I wait and listen, listen:
Far away and deep within
The winds whisper the great Lion’s roar.
And I see through the trees
As night falls
A leaf upon the earth.
O that I might arrive
At that chink in time in time,
With time enough to love,
Before I go hence.
‘Some of you will not taste of death until you have seen the Kingdom of God come in power.’ Mark 9:1
‘It is all true, or it ought to be.’
on the truth of the Arthurian Legends
Where are you?
Where is the Church as it should be,
But beyond our ken
Hidden in legend and mystery?
In weariness we lift our eyes
And long again for what was
Or might have been,
And what may still be.
We see, we dream, we hope—
Out there, unspoilt, unspotted,
In some unsung, undiscovered land,
Beyond the desert’s sea of weeds and sand
A wild vine is grafted in.
Wild yet fresh,
Still in love’s first blush
Where Spirit’s bloom has triumphed
Over sin and blood and nature’s thrush.
Where goes your flock
Unfitted yet to harness or to plow?
We hear their anthems’ holy tamed yet savage roar.
As young yearlings they still prance and wait,
Unaware of religion’s weighty saddle
Or its earned and learned gait.
Washed yet unwashed,
Lost, yet found,
Out of sight our hopes are pinned upon you.
Your muddy matted fleece,
Your dirty coat and hide,
Are brave and princely.
They cannot hide
A Heart that dreams of Heaven’s hidden shore.
This is my prayer:
Let them come to Christendom.
Let them instruct our waning hearts
In all that Christ our King and Prester John had taught,
But we forgot.