April 20, 2009


The following is the first of three parts of “Desire for White,” which must rank as one of the great mystical poems of the 20th century, published together with Allen Afterman’s “Kabbalah and Consciousness” (The Sheep Meadow Press). Contemporary Jewish poet Rodger Kamenetz writes in his introduction: “The ‘Desire for White’ – the desire for God, is an impossiblity that is also our obliteration. White is both the consummation and obliteration of all light – yet we live, as the poet says in his poems, perpetually on the other side, even while affirming that ‘From your side’ – God’s side – ‘light doesn’t die.’ And the yearning is painful; in his desire for white, ‘the eyelids are cut from my eyes.’ God has many names in Jewish mystical thought, but the most intimate, the one Afterman chooses in his poetry, is ‘you.’ Not even with a capital ‘y,’ but the you we desire to be intimate with and familiar to…”

Desire For White
Allen Afterman



Everything, its open mouth


its gaze cloudless –

everything, its one desire


desire, of the inner colors of white


From your side

light doesn't die

only forms of light

tiny screams like isolated stars,

from your side

it is simple –

no one is lost

nothing can be lost

emerging from light

in the focusing of light

union resolves into the separation

of a man turning in a room

his eyes wide with meditation

appearing as you disappear,

in the closing aperture

death appears

Turning against you

for what you let happen

for what is human,

against you

to the point

no point is left

not burned through by bitterness

to its emptiness

nothing we have done

not purified

not atoned for

by pyramids of children,

to the point

there is no point

left without you


Everything that happens

is you

everything human

is a gift to yourself,

a sacrifice

to yourself,

my mouth

is the


for your silence

for your absence

for my life made of death

The eyelids are cut from my eyes –

I wait to become

what will happen

what you want,

I am yours

your boy

your toy

my voice scraping through a hole

is your wind

your speech


The shell

is form –

is the dome

the skull

is the density of nothingness,

its intensity

is this thought

a wind hiding silence

Silence that is your

idea of time

your sense of space

that is every direction's disappearance

your face's disappearance

into non-existence

into betrayal,

that is your choice

of our choice

between losses,

choice that must fail

iron in it


until there is no choice

except to find

the nothingness

of your face

that alone fills

space's dome

time's skull

that becomes silence

that becomes water

that is beauty,

that fills why

that fills all but why


In the opening of the psyche

by the mind itself

so much delicate destruction

is involved

dissolving its reality

too much for a man

grasping its broken pieces

The world is

too good

too evil

too sexual

to do what you want,

to reveal your existence

hidden in cries against your injustice,

hidden in trenches

in freedom


After death

the sun

opens wordless

like a command it is quiet

Pyres are burning prisms

rain falling –

peaceful as it was

Spring won't be prevented

flowers like excited eyes glint in mud

The ground underfoot virulent