Isa­iah by Ephraim Moshe Lilien, 1906

Some­times in the night I still hear it:

a gun, emp­ty­ing itself into the fields,

a bomb, erupt­ing in the veg­etable market

as the first bar­gain-hunters arrive.

After all these sun­burned, tired years

of fight­ing prophe­cy, bat­tling Isaiah,

whose songs streamed into my ears at all hours

as I strug­gled to write my own world,

and swal­low the sour seeds of cowardice

and let them be songs. The dead

poets have already left us

all they knew of earth

and flesh, and from inside

the thick white beyond,

they sing with whitened lips

and translu­cent throats:

Lis­ten close­ly, mor­tal one.

To live is a form of music.

This piece is a part of the Berru Poet­ry Series, which sup­ports Jew­ish poet­ry and poets on PB Dai­ly. JBC also awards the Berru Poet­ry Award in mem­o­ry of Ruth and Bernie Wein­flash as a part of the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards. Click here to see the 2020 win­ner of the prize. If you’re inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing in the series, please check out the guide­lines here.

Aviya Kush­n­er is the author of The Gram­mar of God, which was a Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award Final­ist, Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture Final­ist, and one of Pub­lish­ers’ Week­ly’s Top 10 Reli­gion Sto­ries of the Year. An asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at Colum­bia Col­lege Chica­go, she is The For­wards lan­guage colum­nist and has a life­long love of the Book of Isa­iah.