A Peaceable Kingdom

July 29, 2009
Richard M. Berlin, MD

Volume 26, Issue 8

Late summer dusk, swallows in the northern

sky, the sweet scent of nicotiana

flowered near the outdoor stage, cows crooning

in the round stone barn, and Mars in the west

watching with a bloodshot eye. Ghetto kids

on stage with cellos and violins play

Shaker songs and concentration camp quartets,

and an old man sings arias he wrote

twenty thousand nights ago in Terezin.

At the edge of the field, empty boxcars

rumble west on America’s busiest

track, and I flash to a vision of Eve

Heska’s Terezin painting of Paradise,

Eve reaching up with two small hands to pick

an apple that could hang on the Shaker

“Tree of Life.” The old man sings through the noise,

strains to reach high notes he can no longer

hit, the young musicians losing track of time

because they’re crying, the conductor’s baton

trembling like a moth in waves of moonlight.