Poetry by Helen Bar-Lev: “The Wrong Tree”

Israeli poet and painter Helen Bar-Lev was born in New York in 1942. She has held over 90 exhibitions of her landscape paintings and published eight illustrated poetry collections. She kindly permitted me to reprint the poem below, inspired by Russia’s war against Ukraine. It was first published in ESRA Magazine.

The Wrong Tree

Look at us humans
bones and blood and skin
eating fruit from the wrong tree,
sailing arks to banish the bad
but we are fools and sink with the ship

Prayers unheard clog the earth
war after war and the world whirls on
a murderer in every corner
superheros vanished or banished,
refugees like the rest of us

Atlantis has disappeared
Saints burned at the stake
Shangri La never was
think Hiroshima, my love

Mozart was recalled at thirty-five
Moses forbidden the promised land
slavery and plagues still alive
and no one to raise us from the dead

Look, Henny Penny
the ruble is falling
the wall is wailing
the pipes are calling
Danny, the boy, the soldier
tells Mama he’s frightened–
then the missile explodes

The sun shines and regrets and retreats
the crocodile cries and destroys
this is not the planet of free choice

News news everywhere
on buildings, in bunkers,
oh how the world has shrunk

We are all golems
slumped on the floor
waiting for instructions…
or our own destruction

One comment on “Poetry by Helen Bar-Lev: “The Wrong Tree”

  1. A very heartfelt poem, Jendi. I have written many in support of Ukraine, and they are all up on Twitter. I have been so anxious about them that I followed the news every day, except a day or two when I had some things to settle financially, and I was back at it the next day. Ukraine is my heart, these days. Best, Vicki

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.