O, House of Assaracus

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.

Listen. Look.

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.

Elliott Tepper

The Wandering Jew


‘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.’
                                                                        Psalm 124

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.
They come.

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?

Doubt not,
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,
A sail.

Yea, all the telltale signs foretell.

Lift up your heart.
They come!
A ship, a people—called, sent.

Fear not.
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’.

Elliott Tepper