by Paul Hooker

Exodus 20:18-21

I wandered in this country then;
I do not recognize it now,
having spent too long in tents
beneath the mountain, storm, and cloud.
Its monuments are nowhere clear.
In place of towering obelisk
proud beside the silvered pool
is raised the phallus and fist,
a pornographic tale of fools.

I was a believer then
though hardly now would make the claim.
Hoary text, old prayer, and hymn
seem out of rhythm, vague, and strained.
Measured words mean nothing here.
This is the hour of rage and lies,
and sacred passions made absurd,
and grief that dwells too deep for sighs,
and sighs that dwell too deep for words.

I was a man then, but no more
would dare to boast of manhood’s sway,
such shame the boast must hold in store;
would rather walk a simpler way.
Is walking such a way allowed?
Beside the path are souls. They weep;
their anguish haunts men’s heartless dreams.
It is not mine to catch and keep
their tears, nor soothe their hurts, it seems.

I am a witness, then. I see
what cultured blindness keeps from sight,
the whir of wings as angels flee
abandoning the fading light.
God is not here, but in the cloud.
Yet in the cloud, draped like a pall
around the shoulders of the mountain
in grumbling thunder, flash, and squall
may yet be found the healing fountain.