May 07

Blessing / Curse

Dan Bellm


Only one per family. One people per world. Conditional, like love. A mercy for him that gives and him that takes. The soul called back to the body, since unguarded it can fly. Something to be counted, said my mother, to wish away sorrow, though I lived by sorrow's light. Physically conferred. The smell of my son, like the smell of the fields that God has blessed. A pressure in the graciousness, an expectation, a promise wishful or not, a force of good in the words, a thing stolen or gained by deceit, by taking an advantage; a good happening to bad people, or to me. Does it multiply to fulfill itself. I will make your name great: and you shall be a blessing. Born of bloedsian, as in blood, as in sacrifice, dashed above the door that the curse pass over. Once it meant injure or wound. The burden of it. Blessé. A state of being. Or when someone died without pain: that was a blessing. A doorway onto the eternal, the gates of heaven that open and close, at the end of light. A reflected glory. The milk and honey. Does it sometimes not take, depending on the intention. Does the one who blesses need to feel blessed already. O my soul bless God. What is the gift. To be recited on Mount Gerizim at an altar of unhewn stone. Blessed shall you be in the city and in the coun-try, blessed in your comings and your goings, blessed in your basket and your kneading bowl. Or said when human power has no use. The hand of God on my head. The innermost, the yearned for, the saved for last.


The sweat of the brow, the pang of giving birth, the dust we return to, the blessing's undertow. Sky of copper and earth of iron, melancholy and mania, unending rain of dust and sand. Words out of my father's mouth hanging visible in the air: a darkness that could be touched. Reproof and chastening, most dreaded portion of the book, recited fast in a low voice by a humble soul, so much more of it than the blessing, so much longer. A state of being. A smell of sulfur. Does it carry a momentum. The cruelty of the righteous, the bad luck of the uninsured, the price of everything and the value of nothing, the way to make the treaty stick. A curse and an imprecation shall you be among your people. A cussedness, a consternation, a proverb and byword. By the pricking of my thumbs. To be recited on Mount Ebal by Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulon, Naphthali and Dan. I'm rubber you're glue. Coming in threes. Curses: says the villain: foiled again. Calamity, panic and frustration. Pestilence, blight and mildew. Piles, boil-scars and itch. Madness, blind-ness and dismay. An anguished heart and eyes that pine and a despondent spirit. And all the people shall say, Amen. But does the one who curses need to feel blessed. In the morning you will say, if only it were evening! In the evening, if only it were morning! You stand before me this day, all of you. O guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile, and to such as curse let my soul be dumb, yea, let my soul be unto all as the dust.
Ki Tavo, Deut. 26:1 – 29:8


Images: Ghetto and UN by Peter Schwartz.


Dan Bellm, a San Francisco poet and translator, is the author of One Hand on the Wheel (Berkeley: Roundhouse Press, 1999) and Buried Treasure (Cleveland State University, 1999). San Francisco's Sixteen Rivers Press will publish his third poetry collection, Practice, in spring 2008. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, The Other Side of the Postcard, an anthology of San Francisco poets (City Lights Books, 2005), The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004 (Houghton-Mifflin, 2004), and Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry (Talisman House, 2000). He has also appeared in many journals and anthologies as a translator of poetry and fiction from Spanish. His translation of the young adult novel from Spain, The Legend of the Wandering King by Laura Gallego García (Scholastic, Inc., 2005), made the American Library Association's Notable Books for Children list and the School Library Journal's Outstanding International Books list for 2006.