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I’d like to admit something that may come as a surprise, given my postings for National Poetry Month last year and this year.

I don’t read poetry.  Not really.  Other than a brief foray into Edmund Spenser’s “Faerie Queene” this fall and an equally short glance at Shakespeare’s sonnets a little further back, I haven’t sat down to read a poem since junior year of college when I read Seamus Heaney’s translation of “Beowulf.”

The poetry I encounter most comes with music attached.  And so, for the rest of National Poetry Month, I’m going to post favorite song lyrics.  Some were written to be songs from the start, while others began as traditional poems and found themselves set to music later on.

I’d like to begin with one of the latter type, a poem/song that is now often found in Jewish services and prayerbooks.

Hanna Szenes was a freedom fighter and partisan during World War II.  In 1944 she and some compatriots parachuted into Yugoslavia to help rescue Hungarian Jews from being deported to Auschwitz.  She was arrested at the Hungarian border, imprisoned, tortured, and eventually executed by firing squad.  Her diaries and other writings have been published and some have been widely used, including the poem I’m featuring today.  In fact, this poem is used to close some versions of SCHINDLER’S LIST.

אלי, אלי

אלי, אלי, שלא יגמר לעולם
החול והים
רשרוש של המים
ברק השמים
תפילת האדם

Eli, Eli, Shelo yigamer l’olam:

Hachol v’hayam

Rishrush shel hamayim

B’rak hashamayim

T’filat ha’adam.

My God, My God, I pray that these things never end,
The sand and the sea,
The rush of the waters,
The crash of the Heavens,
The prayer of Man.