Gershon Hepner

What will follow the silence of Elijah?

Isaiah wrote a book, perhaps together
with two collaborators, Deutero
and Trito. No one can be certain whether
he needed help from them to show
the world his view of heaven and predict
the future, and Elijah wrote
no monographs. A silence derelict
of meaning was his final note,
unlike the sounds made by Isaiah, yet
he will, we’re told by Malachi, proclaim,
once generations are no more upset
with one another, concord, erasing shame.

The opposite I fear may happen if
the nation reelects a man who nearly drove
it off a revolutionary cliff,
and into dereliction’s deep end dove.

Malachi 3:23-24 states:

כג  הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ לָכֶם, אֵת אֵלִיָּה הַנָּבִיא–לִפְנֵי, בּוֹא יוֹם יְהוָה, הַגָּדוֹל, וְהַנּוֹרָא.     23 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 

כד  וְהֵשִׁיב לֵב-אָבוֹת עַל-בָּנִים, וְלֵב בָּנִים עַל-אֲבוֹתָם–פֶּן-אָבוֹא, וְהִכֵּיתִי אֶת-הָאָרֶץ חֵרֶם.  {ש}24 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the land with utter destruction.

The first part of the poem was inspired by a discussion of Dante’s Paradiso by Joan Acocella in The New Yorker, September 3 and 10, 2007:

In the Paradiso, these probing metaphors seem to multiply, because of Dante’s anxiety that we won’t understand what he is telling us. Already in the opening lines, he said that what he saw in Heaven is impossible to describe. As he goes on, he makes the point again and again. He solves the problem, insofar as he can, by contriving what Dantists call “accommodative metaphors,” metaphors in which, while saying that his meaning is incommunicable, he accommodates us by coming up with some sort of image. Examples can be found throughout the third canticle, often overlapping with the mental-process metaphors, and in them lies the pathos of the Paradiso. The souls in Heaven may not long for anything they don’t have, but there is someone here who does: Dante, conscious at every moment that what he is producing in this poem is merely, as the veteran Dante scholar John Freccero put it, “a compromise short of silence.” In the final canto, where the pilgrim arrives at the empyrean, the screws, needless to say, are tightened. If the lower spheres of Heaven were hard to describe, how is he going to tell us what it was like to look God in the face?

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at