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I Know the Heart of a Stranger

I Know the Heart of a Stranger

Tree with one dried leaf on it

I know the heart of the stranger.
It beats
And bleeds
And breaks.
I know this heart;
It is my own.

But this I do not know -
this hatred,
this tearing
and rending.
I do not know this
this strangled
heart of

The stench from
this sacrifice is not pleasing.
it is a desolation.
There is no delight in this,
only death and a heart of stone.

I do not know that heart.

Will You bring a rain
of scarlet hyssop petals
to flutter and fall
against the broken bodies
piled against altars
slick with blood?

I would know You, God!
I would know the heart of a stranger.
I would sing of Your glory
and teach Your ways with joy.

But this heart -
this heart of death
and desecration -
I cannot know this heart.
I will not know this heart.

If I knew that heart
I fear it would be mine.

Based on two pieces of text, Exodus 23:9, “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt,” and Psalm 51, the author wrote this poem in response to the terrorist attack in Manchester, England.

Stacey Zisook Robinson is a member of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, IL, and Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe, IL. She blogs at Stumbling Towards Meaning.

Stacey Zisook Robinson

Published: 5/25/2017

Categories: Arts & Culture, Literature, Sacred Texts
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