Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #66, Goatherds

Mosaic: Caesar the Conqueror; 2 images merged, colorized, and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons-- Archimedes and Roman Soldier, and gladiators, in the public domain.
Mosaic: Caesar the Conqueror; 2 images merged, colorized, and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons-- Archimedes and Roman Soldier, and gladiators, in the public domain.

In this episode… nameless villages and angry prayers; a world in reverse image.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Fourteenth Era, Part 3 of 18, ~1170 C.E., to Khazaria
Sh’monah Esray, Kedusha, Angelic visions

New light. Shepherds we become. But before we leave the prophet’s hill we make a tube of cedar bark for Yokhanan to store his scrolls inside that blasted cedar tree.

The border on the Seljuk lands is like a desert nomad’s cloak — ill kept and full of gapin’ holes; ain’t no border checks off-road. Seljuk Syria, that’s our goal. A two day climb thru dried out streams, wadis where branches of bleached out oak pluck at our eyes with their bony fingers.

And only two days after that we acquires some kingly robes, to personate our shepherd ways. Hooded cloaks of felted wool — like walkin’ ovens in the sun; fur-skin boots packed with felt to ease the blisterin’ of our feet — a rancid stench soon reeks from them; each a staff to walk by the way and help convince hungry wolves to tear the necks of other flocks; and naturally a willow switch to help persuade a head-strong goat to join his happy fold again.

Soon enough and we become like goats ourselves, seein’ the world thru goaty eyes: tufts of weed and low-hung leaves guide the way, moving’ at the slowest pace of twelve distracted, hungry beasts. Any patch of dusty turf allures each dull and beasty heart.

Passin’ thru this rich and varied world our eyes serve only our yammery guts; a berry here, a nut there, a dusty weed looks succulent; in a dried out wadi, a puddle of mud, we’re drawn to it like a cup of wine.

Come to a village without a name, just one dusty lane lined by walls; their mud plaster in crumbly piles or cracked and buckled from the mudbrick core. Behind the walls and open gates dogs bark and children howl. Comes a young mother, babe at breast, child and mother with hardly a tooth. Sees us; slams and bolts the gate. I hears her spit three time and croak,
“Accursed, accursed, accursed; a jinn! This home be rid of satan’s sin.”
Weren’t sure if she meant us or her, but the goats get the message and scurry on and we too scamper goatfully.

Pass a well along the road. Batkol veers off to look in it, turns the handle, and disgusted says,
“Broke and corroded all this place.”

Pass some ruins in a rocky field. Didn’t notice til the goats all stopped to nibble clover by a rubble wall. Behind, there’s a patch of mosaic floor: a Roman caesar stands with his sword, a foot on the head of an upstart king. And this graffiti etched beside:
“Zion, your abusers won’t endure. Their ruin is swift to come, and sure.”

*Stopped beside a church along the way. Well, we squatted on our heels and listened to them pray.*
*-* Mamas and Papas, “California Dreamin’”

Psalms and supplications, like sobs and wails, then a preacher’s voice, like a crackin’ whip replacin’ the sobs with pounded fist,
“Our curse will resound, as long as we live, against you, Zengi* war-lord and dog. Our mouths will spit and our tongues sneer and our hand will lay a snare in your fields and a stumbling block in your blinded ways until you tremble and until you fall and we will drive you out of our world. Cursed are you, Zengi dog.”
* Local Turkish governors serving the Seljuks, and soon to be overthrown from within by Saladdin.

Such the Kedushah* that we hear sittin’ in the shade and walkin’ by the way, inverted like Dante’s climb thru hell, the world of light in Adam reversed. In the angel of us a beast pervails. There we weep, aware of ourselves.
* Third blessing of Sh’monah Esray, holiness of the Lor as experienced by angels


In the next episode, of all things, a sadhu from Hind.

About the Author
I am a writer, educator, artist, and artisan. My poetry is devoted to composing long narrative poems that explore the clash between the real and the ideal, in the lives of historical figures and people I have known. Some of the titles of my books are: The Song uv Elmallahz Kumming A Pilgimmage tu Jerusalem The Pardaes Dokkumen The Atternen Juez Talen You can listen to podcasts of my Eternal Jew posts on my personal blog, Textures and Shadows, which can be found on my website, or directly, at: I live just outside Washington, DC with my bashert, and we have two remarkable sons. Those three light my life.
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