by Jason Van Boom
Let old swords lie where they fell.
Let dead kings sleep, their skeletal guards’
Keeping watch in the quiet solidarity of the grave.
Let those who laboured, rest in their struggles.
For God alone owns that unknown day
When He awakens all to the meaning of their deeds.
For you, don’t let the dead you’ve never met
Grow in your mind into gods, ghosts, or demons.
Let them just be men, mortal, the same as you,
The same flesh, drawing in this same earth’s maternal air,
Then, expiring at the last, releasing it for your use.
History is dust and ink, but as you breathe, not you.
To your ancestors, you are a dream.
To your descendants, a corpse.
Only in this moment do you live. For just as
The proverbial oak was once a seed,
‘This brief, appointed time is
The womb of your eternity.
Everyone thinks I’m Dutch,
A variant of the WASP;
Like Rip Van Winkle, and
Curious Catskills spirits
Playing at nine-pins, the ball
Thundering as it strikes;
Or old New Amsterdam,
City of a different kind of white.
So much contained in a name, and
In my mother’s gentile nose,
A phenotypic bequest that keeps
My paternal descent concealed.
And I’m grateful they see me
In a way that hides myself, and
I resent that I hide myself, but
It’s the more prudent way
To keep everything firmly locked up,
Behind the door of appearances,
In my own room, my own space,
The invisible ethnostate of my soul,
Where I read and think what I want,
And I converse with Maimonides
Or read Talmud and Midrash,
Or study my ancestors’ tribal script,
Because the world is blind and vengeful,
And hostile to wandering peoples
Who maintain themselves amidst
All of their ceaseless, unending wandering.
When will I enjoy roots?
Only when I’m literally grounded,
My epitaph being the first time
I could ever freely speak.
Jason Van Boom is an educator, consultant, and public speaker. Born in California, he emigrated to Europe in 2012. He currently teaches Theory of Knowledge and History of Europe at a preparatory school in Tallinn. His interests include geopolitics, the history of ideas, and the relationships between tradition and identity. His studies in medieval Western and Arabic sciences inspire his poetry.