SHAARE TIKVAH (GATES OF HOPE), LISBON *
In this landscape, churches seem displaced.
Half close your eyes in quiet contemplation,
look behind the convents and the crosses.
This is no realm for heavy robes and rosaries.
It belongs to those who study time and space.
Seven eleven, eleven forty-seven.
An accidental rhyme frames the golden age of Al-Andalus.
The West. Fresh with dew from April to October,
green at the end of summer.
At sunset, the Muezzin’s call greets the bride.
On the first day, everyone is back at work.
Muslim invasion, Jewish emancipation.
Expulsion, persecution, forced conversion,
decreed for the hand of Princess Isabella of Asturias,
who died in childbirth, her only infant two years later.
The one time fortune snubbed Portugal’s lucky King.
Fourteen ninety-two: Columbus,
in fourteen ninety-seven surpassed by da Gama.
The Jew’s astrolabe guided them both
through the hemispheres, north and south,
in the name of idols and false claims.
History’s indifferent ironies.
Ineffable, mind-boggling calamities.
Oh Lisbon, let us see your beauty, broken down.
(Thank you, Leonard Cohen.)
These hills were here before
the idea of saints was even born.
In this Levantine Atlantic landscape,
you stand straight, you don’t kneel down.
Half close your eyes, in quiet contemplation
in the patterned penumbra of a narrow street.
Feel it, hear it, can’t you see it?
The air. The ways they plea and praise.
What is gone, remains.
*Shaare Tikvah (Gates of Hope) is the name of the first synagogue that was built and opened in Lisbon, Portugal after a hiatus of more than four hundred years, in 1904.