What is Faith?

We sat on the roof,
Feet dangling over the edge of a burning city.
Smoking.
Watching the stars fall
To infinity;
Watching every last one of ‘em
Hit the ground fast and furious.

Did we die?
No,
We just ran.
Out of stars
Or cigarettes?

There was a man
Who attended Synagogue every weekend
Just to declare,
“The Lord does not exist.”

Ashes swirl over abandoned buildings
And I think
Who then, was he praying to
When his lips moved silent?
Was he badmouthing
A lord that doesn’t exist?

But I’ve got to give him credit
For showing up steady
Until the night
The stars fell and we just ran.

If you play me a melody,
I’ll give you the words
And we could write a love song
Under these warring skies.

Now I know that’s no grand Shakespearean gesture,
But I’d call it a bargaining chip if nothing else,
To offer a Lord that doesn’t exist.
Lookee here, Mister,
We are all Your soldiers fighting in this one.

And what is faith
If not the love song written
Under these warring skies
On the night
The stars fell and we just ran?

And what is faith
If not our smiles drunk
On cigarettes, burnt houses
And the lingering taste of Grandma’s strawberry cake still in our mouths?

If not the thing that brings us to pray
For that poor woman walking her dog
Down Madison, with breasts
Hanging out and her butt sagging low.

If not the thing that brings us to pray
For the weather to cool enough
That the milk won’t spoil
Before we make it home from the corner market.

Call it what you will.
Prayers. Cigarettes. Love songs.
Falling stars.
I suppose
We are all living on it.

On the phone
Asking Grandma for some of that cake mix,
Asking me if there’s a guy.
“No Grams, not yet and please stop,
Because I’m so much more
Than marriage. College.  A plan.”
(She won’t understand.)

And what is faith
If not accepting what we don’t understand?
“Grams, it’s ok to get lost,
Sometimes,
I don’t know.
Wandering is as fine as settling down.
Adventure need not be scorned.”

Maybe people come and go
Tracking in mud and the outdoors,
Leaving me a mess to clean on their way out,
But at least you’ve been steady
Since the night
The stars fell and we just ran.

So here we are.
Still sitting on the roof,
Feet dangling over the edge of a burning city.
Smoking.

You start humming some old melody, asking,
“What is faith
If not a love song written
Under these warring skies
To a Lord that doesn’t exist?”

But faith
Does not burn cities nor does it start these wars.
It is not that molten hate seeping and rotting the earth’s core.
So do take a bite, why don’t you?
I dare you.

Because
What have you got to lose?

Because
We’ve just run
Out of cigarettes,
The houses below are burnt-black
And I cannot tell anymore
Which are rockets or stars that have fallen
From a sky that looks like war.

I’ve given you the words now
And you’re humming that old melody.
Is that enough
To write a love song under these warring skies?
Is that enough
To call ceasefire?
Is that
Faith?

 

Image: Hod Hasharon, Israel February 7th 2019

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Hadassah Brenner
Hadassah Brenner serves as a combat medic and soldier in the IDF. She finds that writing eases her mind and helps her better understand the many frustrations and complicated thoughts that her job as a soldier entails. Her first poetry collection “The Warrior Princess Once Said,” was published in July 2019 by the Leaf Publishing House. Through her writing, Hadassah attempts to understand and explain her journey and experiences as a solider. What does it actually mean to be a soldier? Is there more than one kind of war that we all must fight? Can poetry be a weapon, if for every battle in life, she has set out with her sword dipped in ink, ready to write it all down?

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