Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. Ecclesiastes 1:2
Hiding behind our English ‘vanity’ is the Hebrew ‘hevel’
It is the name of the victim of Cain’s murderous rage
Abel (Hevel), the faithful one whose blood the earth drinks
Protesting to the heavens over the violation of its soil
By this fratricide to appease Cain’s wounded pride
Hevel is an evanescent word for vapor or mist or emptiness
It is the emptiness of a politician’s hopes and prayers
As more children are sacrificed on the gunmetal altar
It is there in the men who grasp after power
While they steal the innocence away from children
It is there as grocery stores become slaughterhouses
And houses of prayer become places of sacrifice
As ‘never again’ becomes ‘yet again’
As hope dies to despair in the vapid vociferousness.
How many Abels must die for us to turn from the emptiness
Before we look for something more substantial than smoke?
How many tears must fall upon the ground to wash away the blood?
How many broken lives and broken bodies before more is demanded
Than empty vanity? Words that vanish into thin air like smoke.
Words that taste like an ashtray as their cancerous residue remains.
I would rather scream into the abyss than speak the empty words
To grieving parents and broken communities in a shattered world.
Yet, these vain words are spread like fertilizer over the tomb stones
That populate the fields where the innocents are planted.
Spoken by men who are satisfied with a society
That sacrifices its children so that nothing has to change.
Where vanities are laid upon vapid vanities and all remains emptiness.