by Ken Sehested
A meditation written in the fall of 1990 as half a million US troops mustered in Saudia Arabia
for an assault (The Gulf War) on Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait. It was the presence of
these troops in one of Islam’s most sacred terrains that provoked Osama bin Laden
to create al-Qaeda to launch his terror campaign.
O God, I am frightened. Anxious are my waking hours and fretful is my sleep. Even as I pray I sense that desert sands in remote places are readied, eager, to bleach the bones of mothers’ sons, fathers’ daughters, children of us all. The corrupt, lustful glory of vain rulers now erupts across parched land. Hear our prayer, O Lord.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.
O Lord, if only my hands were powerful, enough to shape a new future. If only my legs could run, run and tell, tell of mercy, of kindness. My heart trembles within me, shaking my flesh, shaking the earth. Is no one to hear, to rescue, to avert this bloodletting? Have hearts so hardened, more brittle than crusts of bread?
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, fear not!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God. The Lord will come and save you.”
God come! Come and see. Come and hear!! None see. None hear. Blindness rages like a wounded lion; deafness sears shut the mouths of ancients. No music swells, except that of rhythmic cannon. No water flows for parched bodies, souls. All laughter is of ravenous jackals. All life is grass.
Then the eyes of the blind shall open, and the ears of the deaf, unstopped;
then shall the lame leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
Fools are confirmed: there is no God. None but the vengeful escape. Holy Ways and Holy Days are crushed to gravel. Ransom comes as human flesh, bargained for gold (or oil). Joy is mocked; gladness, a sneer. Sorrow, sadness is all I hear. Those who know say Zion is won only by the barrel of a gun. Is it really so? Tell me, if you can, if you will, if you know: What road is this?
And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not pass over it, and fools shall not err therein.
No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come upon it;
they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Tell me, if you can, if you will, if you know: What road is this?
Hear our prayer, O Lord.
Hear our prayer, O Lord.
Incline thine ear to us,
and grant us thy peace.
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