• Leann Shamash

Anywhere, Anytime

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

#anywhere #anytime #cog #systems #failingsystems #parsha #parshatshemot #broken #workhard #hardwork #erosion #thingschange #usvsthem #them #us #keepyourheaddown


The beginning of the book of Exodus brings us to Egypt generations after Jacob and his family immigrated there during the famine. For a period of time the descendants of Jacob prospered. They multiplied and grew and grew. The Pharaoh who knew Joseph died and as the memory of Joseph faded, the Egyptians felt the need to eliminate this people whose numbers were increasing in their land. And so the system began to change and the the Egyptians began to impose more work and violent edicts against the population.


This poem tries to imagine an individual within a political system when things go slowly wrong. What do people think as conditions around them continue to change and their right to live freely changes?


Please note that I have chosen a male to be the subject of this poem, but please let us assume that the pronoun "he" is a universal pronoun rather than an exclusively male pronoun.



ANYWHERE, ANYTIME


Once there lived a human

Any human

Anywhere

Anytime

One human among humans

One small part of the whole

He worked hard

His head down

Shoulders strong

Brought food to the table

A warm home

and family

And there were mornings

And there were evenings

Life was good


Time passes

Days pass to months

Months pass to years

Work and more work

Head down

Shoulders squared

Hands strong


A change

Barely perceptible

Hints, Innuendo

New commands

New leaders

Veiled glances

Small restrictions

So small

"It’s ok"

Keep working

Providing

"It will be ok!

Just keep your head down

It's nothing.

This will pass."

And life was different.


Time passes

Days pass to months

Months pass to years

Work and more work

Keep your head down

And the changes flow

Like the tides

Tides wash over the past

Day after day

Month after month

With each tide

Erosion begins

Erosion of values

Erosion of norms

Erosion of rights

Erosion of civility


And the human

Keeps his head down

Trying to work

Trying to provide

"It will be ok

It has to be ok!"

Stares and glares

Strangers in our midst

Doors shut,

windows shuttered

Refusals

Rejections

Food is scarce

Put he pushes on

Head down

Shoulders slumped

Hands clenched


"It will be OK."

"The tides will turn."

After all

He believes in man

He believes in systems

He believes in fairness

He believes in "the us"

He cannot be "the them"

He can't be

He has worked too hard

And there were mornings

And there were evenings

And things were not good

Time passes

Days pass to months

Months pass to years

He works and works

Back breaking work

Less pay

Little food

Hunger

Head down

Shoulders slumped

In shame

Chased, blamed, cursed


Where are the humans?

Where is the humanity?

Where is the system?

Where is the fairness?


And the changes flow

harder now and faster

Like the tides

Tide after tide

Day after day

Month after month

With each tide

He breaks

We break

Society breaks


Where are the values?

Where are the norms?

Where are the rights?

Where is the civility?


Once there lived a human

Any human

Anywhere

Anytime

It could be you



Exodus 1:8-11 Translation from Sefaria


וַיָּ֥קָם מֶֽלֶךְ־חָדָ֖שׁ עַל־מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יָדַ֖ע אֶת־יוֹסֵֽף׃ A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph.

וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֶל־עַמּ֑וֹ הִנֵּ֗ה עַ֚ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל רַ֥ב וְעָצ֖וּם מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃ And he said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are much too numerous for us.

הָ֥בָה נִֽתְחַכְּמָ֖ה ל֑וֹ פֶּן־יִרְבֶּ֗ה וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־תִקְרֶ֤אנָה מִלְחָמָה֙ וְנוֹסַ֤ף גַּם־הוּא֙ עַל־שֹׂ֣נְאֵ֔ינוּ וְנִלְחַם־בָּ֖נוּ וְעָלָ֥ה מִן־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase; otherwise in the event of war they may join our enemies in fighting against us and rise from the ground.”

וַיָּשִׂ֤ימוּ עָלָיו֙ שָׂרֵ֣י מִסִּ֔ים לְמַ֥עַן עַנֹּת֖וֹ בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיִּ֜בֶן עָרֵ֤י מִסְכְּנוֹת֙ לְפַרְעֹ֔ה אֶת־פִּתֹ֖ם וְאֶת־רַעַמְסֵֽס׃

So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor; and they built garrison cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses.












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