- All-Request Hour
On nights like this there's so much I want that I'm embarrassed to ask for it all, but some guy calls in on the all-request hour and asks for Glory Days, and suddenly I think I can call and ask for all the songs I've ever wanted, the hits and the beautiful misses, so I call and the recording says that when the DJ picks up, I'll only get one song, just one measly, four-minute song out of all the ones I want. I hang up, decide I really should know what song I'd want, but I don't. On hot and motionless nights like this one there's so much I want to ask you for, the whole world and all its music, the unheard stuff too, so much I want to ask about, God, you know I had to ask if I could see the future: just once in my life I want to get it, to understand what it's like to prophesy, to see way ahead and get to yell about it, to take to the air and broadcast; And I can hear you grumbling, far above, saying the whole process is inherited, inborn, ingrown, inevitable, whatever I give you, sweetie. On nights like this I know you've given me so much, [End Page 125] and I'm not talking about singsong hits but the land, the belonging and the not really belonging to it, all my life the tall blue hills and the graying shadows, the walking between them and between loving you in total faith and hating you, running away from the thought that you might control me. I know my breath is from you on nights like this, I know the heat and thirst are both yours. What I want you to give me is a voice, sort of like the bat kol, the daughter of voice, literally, a thing with the strength of whatever made Lot's wife turn back. If you can't, what I'm asking for is a window, a little telescope into the beyond, just a hint of whatever makes the light be light and the dark darkness. I'm asking you for a drop of understanding, God. I want to know what makes the lip move, I want someone or something to tell me what drives love, why I can't help reaching over, and then under, why you know so much and I've always got to beg to know what comes next, why I'm obsessed with the words of the prophets, of desperate and wild people everywhere, and also afraid [End Page 126] of them, of you, really, but not afraid enough to not look back. I'll look right at anything, I'll listen to any old song, I'll gladly die trying to understand this life, though you've already told me what could befall me! I learned all about it in elementary school, heard how the curious woman turned back and became salt.
Aviya Kushner is a journalist with poems and essays published in Partisan Review, Harvard Review, and The International Jerusalem Post.