Poetry Porch: Forgiveness


Praying For My Sister 
by Charles Fishman

This earth is but one country and mankind its citizens. Baháulláh 

I went to Acco and prayed for my sister.
It was a bleak day in January, the northernmost coast
of the kingdom. The bus ride from Jerusalem took hours.
What is a day to the heart that seeks absolution?
I had taken this duty on myself: I would stand in the Bábs garden
where Haganah soldiers had been murdered by the British;
I would speak for her words of hope and comfort.

This was the realm of passionate martyrdom,
and I would read from Baháí scripture, The Fire Tablet
and The Seven Valleys. It was late afternoon and the sky
was rapidly darkeningsoon there would be rain.
No one stood with me in this haunted place, but I reached out
to my sister through these words; I reached out to her God
for her, as the cool drops fell . . . and I felt the spirit of my sister
touch my lips, the breath of an old Spirit graze my cheek.

In Haifa, too, I prayed for her: at the great temple,
under the gold-leafed dome. Deep in the sacred gardens,
the sea stirred the ramparts; light blossomed
on the ripening fruit. Here was the shrine.
I took my shoes off and entered. The quiet approached me.

I prayed for my sister here. I asked for Baháulláhs blessing
to descend on her like cool rain, to sweeten her days
with the scent of lush blossoms. In this small chapel,
I could not tell if the earth had, at last, become one country,
but I knew that my sister should be minister of a world at peace.

I prayed for my sister in Acco and Haifa, and I prayed
for her again at the Wall, for this was the place
where the power of life fully spoke to me, where history
and heaven seemed entwined. I prayed for her
in the Judean hills, where the zealots had known God
through the strength of community and isolation;
at Stella Carmel, where Christian missionaries offered Christ
to my wandering heart (and where I said grace for them
in my heart's best Hebrew). I spoke to my sister words barely spoken,
until what I murmured to myself felt like the sweetest blessing.

Copyright © 1997 by Charles Fishman. Used with permission of Charles Fishman.