Poet Judith Kunst brings us this beautiful poem in response to Lamentations 2:13.
See If There Be Any Sorrow Like Unto My Sorrow
With what can I compare you, Daughter Jerusalem? To what can I liken you, that I may comfort you,
Virgin Daughter Zion? Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you? – Lamentations 2:13
Because everything has been taken,
because everything that might have
offered itself or been taken for consolation
has already offered itself and been taken,
there can be now no consolation of comparison.
You are a city but you are not like a city:
your buildings are not like buildings,
your streets are not like streets,
they no longer pave the way for
people who no longer act like people.
Crying is heard, but I cannot say it is like
the crying of lost children, for nothing in it
remotely resembles innocence. I cannot say
it is like the crying of boiled water in a kettle,
for water does not start a fire under itself,
nor does water keep boiling when its kettle
has been crushed. How I long to say your crying
is like that of wild geese, for then I could
hear in your sobs some hope of pattern, some
syncopation with the rhythms of departure
and return. There is not. Any.
I write, Your wound is as deep as the sea,
and this is such a poorly drawn picture of
our tears of our minds thrashing and lost in
this enormity of crying that I see: even our
language has broken up and been taken away.
From the Artist:
What entry point could a 21st century Midwestern poet find in an ancient poem attempting to grieve the desecration and dissolution of an entire nation? I wondered if I could find it in the 13th verse of chapter two, where the writer declares his own linguistic lack: loss of metaphor. “To what can I liken you,” he says, “that I may comfort you?” Why is the act of setting two unlike things side by side and placing an equal sign between them a comforting act? Without being able to explain why, we instinctively know and practice the comfort of expressing exactly what we feel: Her smile is a boat that can carry me to safety. His look of scorn pierces me like a dagger. I wondered if a poem that used an apophatic structure—the rhetorical strategy of describing a thing by describing what it is NOT—could help me come closer to apprehending a sorrow so devastating that the quintessentially human act of metaphor-making has been rendered impossible.
Judith Kunst is the author of The Burning Word: A Christian Encounter with Jewish Midrash (Paraclete). Her poetry can be found in The Atlantic, Poetry, Image, Able Muse, Measure, Southern Poetry Review, and other publications. She leads workshops that seek out the intersections of language, scripture, and culture, and she lives with her family at La Lumiere School in northwest Indiana.
This artist was curated by Elizabeth Dishman.
This poem is copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.
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