- Semitic Roots
* KaTaBa - to write
MaKTuB (fate) - Some would prefer the word necessity. Others imagine destiny. The rest call it hunger.
KuTuB (books) - You shall love books more than your mother.
** QaRa'A- - to read
Al-QuR'An (The Koran, The Recitation), iQR'A (recite!): There is no god but God.
IstiQRA' (exploration) - Be unbound, seize dominion, seize fire.
*** FaTaHa - to open
MiFTaH (key) - release, sesame, dreams of secret attics, the ossuary, corroded, corrupted, squeeze - slowly slowly - brace for flash, recoil.
**** ShaHiDa - to testify
ShaHiD (a witness) - So I said to the man who survived the camps, "How brave!" to which he - who could have been
ShaHeeD (martyr) - replied, "If you licked my heart you would die of poison." [End Page 36]
IstiSHaD (martyrdom) How we love them: arrow-pierced sides, jellied eyes running down their cheeks, flailed skins hanging from trees like chamois gloves, or wrapped in parchment and prayer shawls, then torched.... All to feed some fabled beast in the sky.
***** RaHMa - mercy
Even in guttural Yiddish my mother could plead, "hob rachmoness," whenever exuberant I slammed our door or slurped her soup, but of course I descended from her RiHM (womb), attached, wide-eyed and bawling, entitled to milk of life, but now she is gone, maRHuM (deceased), and now I am compelled to follow. May we be shriven by
RaHMan wa RaHiM (The Compassionate The Merciful).
black thread white thread [End Page 37]
Norbert Hirschhorn is a physician specializing in international public health, commended in 1993 by President Bill Clinton as an ''American Health Hero.'' He is the author of the chapbook Sailing with the Pleiades (Main Street Rag) and the collection, A Cracked River (Slow Dancer Press).