This is a creative re-translation of Eichah 1 to reflect the current era, where our sacred sites again sit empty and a new enemy feels as if it has besieged us. I have written this partly to distract my mind from fasting on Tisha b’Av, and partly to help process the grief I am feeling around the closures of communal spaces.
How is this possible?
As lonely she sits, this synagogue, where once she thronged with congregants
She has become like a widow;
Great she was among people, a power for the prayers
She has become precluded.
Bawls, in the night and her tears fall on her cheeks
She has no comforter from all her lovers
Her friends have abandoned her
She imagines them as loveless.
The Jews are exiled from her
Caused by inequality and sickness; she sits with the nations
She cannot find rest
The virus trounced her
In the narrow spaces where it traps its victims.
City streets are mourners,
Don’t welcome congregations any more;
All her doors are bolted
Her leaders are grieving, her lay people lament
She sits in bitterness.
Strange are these adversaries
Enemies who carelessly became overlords
A plague pronounced upon a people
That locks toddlers in captivity
Fearing a sickness outside.
The sanctuary’s splendour
Fled away from her
Her wardens scarper like deer to nowhere
From the airborne pursuer.
Grandeur in her grief
All the precious people that made her home at first
Now her people are falling to the power of frailty
And a sickness that ridicules science.
Have become contaminated
Uncleanliness in the air
And all the dangers we cannot see are suddenly laid bare
So she tries to sigh without breathing.
Infection over our most treasured relatives,
So once the problem has entered your body
You are commanded
Not to go out in public.
Everyone is panting
Just trying to once again enjoy taste
To have their good spirits revived.
Does God not look upon us
And see how much we suffer?
Don’t let it happen to you
Know that this is pain unlike all others
It has befallen me
As if God’s nose has flared up
And exhaled sickness in anger.
My bones bind
Like spines sticking together
Feet swell, immovable
I cannot turn around
And spend my days lying in pain.
My body is
Marked by the signs of disease
Neck scrunched up in knots
Whatever strength I had has failed me
As I find I can no longer stand.
The strongest are trampled
Now, God calls out to me, the time has come
To destroy the youth,
Stamping on brides and crushing down grooms
Like grapes in wine presses.
My eyes, my eyes
Over these I cry
Droplets fall without a refuge
Even our physicians are dying,
So powerful is our adversary.
Love extends her arms
Parting only to find no one there
Such unclear instructions
God of Jacob, this fear is surrounding me
Every centre is infected.
God, you take
Revenge against rebellious and uncovered mouths.
Please listen, all peoples,
Won’t you see the pain
Caused by endless captivity?
I keep calling my loved ones
So they know I still care
I seek out my elders
And bring food to the vulnerable
That they will not be forgotten.
I call out to God
To tell You: ‘I am in distress!’
My heart is turning round
Abroad the people are devastated by statistics
And we see death at home.
They can hear
Ululating outcries from loneliness
This indifferent virus listens
Knowing that no matter what you do
That appointed day will come.
Let all evil stand before God
Vanquisher and vanisher
Who knows all
Examines every dead
Your saving grace may one day come to those
Zealous attendants awaiting You.
Return us to You, O God, and we will return to you. Let us have back the times we had before.