My Radiant Eye

Or is it on account of my radiant eye
I have lived so long?—I never slept

in the study hall, or called anyone
by an improper name. I never urinated in

a desolate synagogue. I never ate or drank
in a desolate synagogue or picked my teeth.

I did not walk into a desolate synagogue
in the summer just because of the heat,

nor in winter just because of cold rain.
Also, I know one may not deliver a eulogy

for an individual inside a desolate synagogue.
But you can read scripture inside a desolate

synagogue, or you can teach in a desolate
synagogue, or deliver eulogies for the community.

When synagogues are deserted they are
to be left alone and weeds allowed to grow.

One should not pick the weeds, lest there be
anguish that the synagogue is in ruins.

When are the synagogues to be swept
so that weeds do not grow inside them?

When they are in use.—When synagogues are
in ruins, weeds are not to be picked there.

Because I know these things I was approved,
although unworthy, after a three-day oral

examination before the king of Sicily
to whom by custom the power of approval

is entrusted. Thereafter, I have worn the
laurel crown—my eye radiant to this day.

Allen Grossman, "My Radiant Eye" from Descartes’ Loneliness. Copyright © 2007 by Allen Grossman. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: Descartes' Loneliness (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2007)
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