Where can peace be found? In the swirl of the hot chocolate inside the coffee cup? The silent spiral of whipping cream drifting after the lingering spoon or in the watchful eyes of the beloved, secretly passing dreams across the room?
If there be peace, it comes so silently that I have never heard it pass.
In the predawn morning, I asked the blackbird if she knew of its existence; she replied by chuckling, awakening the sparrows in their nests. They twittered among themselves, hidden in the hedge, but provided no further information. The yeffler, dsiturbed from his rest, laughed at me and flew away to drum on a tree, where his cackles echoed over rooftops.
Is it the cessation of war or the gooey sensation of melted cheese between the crispy toast?
The dull silence of numbness when the dentist has removed the drill before the pain shoots through the exposed root and thunders through the brain?
So I walked upon the smooth, slippery rocks all grown over with seaweed upon my brother's death. The waves did not stop; the world did not end; the sea kept churning up a froth against the broken chunks of stone. Did I hear his voice call out as he was killed by his own truck? Crabs scuttled for safety away from my clumsy feet. Peace? The emptiness that comes with loss, is this what peace is? The endless tide, swirling in and out the hidden eddies along the beach, longing and tugging the pebbles out toward sea to bury them into the depth of forgetfulness?
Or does peace come with the haunting voice that lingers in the air, the last whisper dying over the orchestra's final tremulo: Wir sind so wandernmuede—ist dies etwa der Tod? Hushed, the audience waits for the last note to hover like a summer's butterfly across the stage into the winter's twilight.
So I sought peace and found it not, for it escaped me, pattering ahead on silent feet. Sometimes I thought I discovered it in the sweetness of the cat's breath as he slept curled beneath my chin, or heard it in his padding feet as he jumped on the bed, but in his death there was naught but horror as he died, writhing in agony from malicious poisoning. The spectre haunts me faithfully, for his last hours were here beside my feet, desperately trying to cling to me. He sought peace in the terror of his soul, his eyes dilated with demons from another world.
Poor child, he did no one any wrong. He never scratched a soul or inflicted any evil on this world. He was not one to detonate bombs or lob artillery shells—he lived a simple life as a cat, leaving the mice on the front steps and occassionally bringing them into the kitchen to savour them as a domesticized person.
And when his lifeless form lay on the steel table relieved by the veterinarian's needle, did it bring peace? His hair slicked down through the agony that had transpired; the paralysis of his muscles and contractions of his spine? Is Nichtsein peace?
What kind of people torment others in such cruel ways? Can the brutality of war always be justified by political agenda? My anguish echoed through the steel-tabled room – and his loss overwhelmed me. So you laugh, ever so with the cackle of the yeffler, drumming on the neighbor's tree—but how comfortable it must be to have things you call your own, to live in conditions where you can eat and work and not be haunted by death.
Ask the widows in Palestine, Iraq or the world over how they survive the agony of life. Ask the homeless, sleeping in the alleys whether they know of peace. I have sought her in the night when stars shone like sapphires against the velvet night; she slid past me in the rivulet of red wine as it was poured from the bottle into the extended glass.
And when I wake and when I sleep, I still yearn to find her standing with a group of friends around the Friday table or hidden in a book filled with delicious words.
So leading me, she ever escapes me in this life—mute and invisible I only find a trace of her mysterious presence.
Shall she be there in the downward spiral when consiousness begins to fail? The silent fall from light to darkness, the leap from being to not? Does she comfort and cradle the wanderer in her longing arms in the journey from this world?
The final note that hangs over the orchestra's heads; the final tremulo of the 'cello—the evening's descent across the still sea—
"Eli, Eli, shelo jigamer le'olam
hachol vehajam, rishrush shel hamajem
berak hashamajim t'filat ha adam."
Lord, my God,
I pray that these things never end:
The sand and the sea,
The rush of the waters,
The crash of the heavens,
The prayer of mankind.
two short bios of Hannah Szenes