Christmas Night Outside Temple Beth El

You notice that [St.] Paul has very peculiar worries about nature. Of course, they’re not ecological worries. He’s never seen a tree in his life. He traveled through the world just like Kafka—never described a tree, or mentioned one…. Look through Kafka’s novels some time, whether there is a tree there. Maybe one on which a dog pisses. —Jacob Taubes.

I prefer this, he thought, for what is not there.
No one is drunk except us. No angel
From Saint Luke. No torpor or self interest.
No fear that we are taught not to have.

Only the park and Lake Wingra beyond.
Dark trees and dim, incandescent snow,
Burr oak, white birch, cedar and some willow.
Rough glitter in the calm midnight distance.

And the Temple, too, a silent mystery.
Like the cultured olive tree in Saint Paul,
On which we all depend, engrafted new,
Some wild and lofty and free uncouth shoots,
Perplexed, benumbed, sublime, with floating hair.
In dead midwinter, upheld in winter air.

—Carl J. Rasmussen, Madison