Why does it happen?

I certainly did not want it.

Against my will

Black oil seeped and slowly filled

The low spots on my fields of green.


Now, because of caustic crude

Sometimes I glean

Only yellow, rude, withered grass.


But I desire a higher harvest,

A verdant splash of love

A stash of growing goodwill.


One day in Jerusalem,

I wove my way through a forest,

Through a thousand tourists,

And found a path

To the Wailing Wall,

A reverent spot

Where men stand tall

And worshiped God.


A million scribbled prayed

Had been crushed into the cracks.

Jews galore, facing the wall,

Let their heads fall,

Up and down,

Bobbing incessantly

To the rhythm of their prayers.


Then without warning

A man appeared from nowhere

With no accent he asked,

“May I pray for you?”


Being touch by his cream of kindness,

I quickly said, “Of course.”


He began.

I was thrilled by the Hebrew sounds

That wound their succulent way

Across his honeyed tongue.

He finished his abundant prayer.


Then again without warning,

To make his point

He thrust his hand

Like a knife to my belly,

And said, “Pay me.”


I would not.


Most religious people,

Motivated by concern for others,

Offer generous prayers daily.

A prayer for me is always free.


He repeated again —

Again stabbing his hand like a piston,

“Pay me!”


I would not.


He insisted

Again and again,

Stabbing, stabbing,

“Pay me!

Pay me!

Pay me!”


I wanted to spit in his face,

And I thought of a chosen race

Which 2,000 years ago

Merchandised religion

In temple space not far

From where we stood.


Another time at a Russian airport,

When the lines were long,

And all the goodwill songs were gone,

A family, (the father Hasidic),

Forced its way to the front of the line

And demanded service.


Again, dark oil surfaced.

You are right.

I wanted to hit the man

Right where his curly, hair locks began.


© Allen Hackworth 2000