George Packer was over at Goldblog HQ last night for dinner, and so inevitably we started reading aloud from my collection of crumbling Partisan Reviews, because that's how we roll, much to the chagrin of the various other Goldblogs then present. George discovered a wonderful poem in the May-June, 1947 number of the Review (which features writing from, among others, Delmore Schwartz, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens and Arthur Schlessinger, Jr.). The poem, called "Jews at Haifa," is by Randall Jarrell:
The freighter, gay with rust,
Coasts to a bare wharf of the harbor,
From the funnel's shade (the arbor
Of gourds from which the prophet, without trust,
Watched his old enemies,
The beings of this earth) I scrutinize
The hundreds at the rail
Lapped in the blue blaze of this sea
Who stare till their looks fail
At the earth that they are promised; silently
See the sand-bagged machine-guns,
The red-kneed soldiers blinking in the sun.
A machine-gun away
Are men with our faces: we are torn
With the live blaze of day --
Till we feel shifting, wrenched apart, the worn
Named stones of our last knowledge:
That all men wish our death. Here on the edge
Of the graves of Europe
We believe: we are not dead;
It seems to us that hope
Is possible -- that even mercy is permitted
To men on this earth,
To Jews on this earth... But at Cyprus, the red earth,
The huts, the trembling wire
That wreathes us, are to us familiar
As death. All night, the fires
Float their sparks up to the yellow stars;
From the steel, stilted tower
The light sweeps over us. We whisper: Ours.
Ours; and the stones slide home.
There is no hope; "in all this world
There is no other wisdom
Than ours: we have understood the world,"
We think; but hope, in dread
Search for one doubt, and whisper, "Truly, we are not dead."
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