The Werewolf Is Coming


Maybe it's because the story in our Torah this week and next is full of prophetic dreams, Joseph's dreams - and I listen for the poets and the singers who may be the dreaming prophets of our times.

"I raised up prophets from among your sons, and nazirites from among your young men. Is that not so, O people of Israel? says the Eternal One. But you made the nazirites drink wine, and ordered the prophets not to prophesy." (Amos 2:11-12)

The werewolf is coming.

Maybe it's that the prophetic messages of Amos, paired with our Torah-portion this week, are so full of foreboding:

"Thus said the Eternal One: For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke it- Because they have spurned the teaching of the Eternal One, and have not observed God's laws. They are beguiled by the delusions after which their fathers walked -I will send down fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the fortresses of Jerusalem." (Amos 2:4-5)

The werewolf is coming.

Maybe it's because, rapaciously wolfish and even werewolfish as President-Elect Donald Trump appears, his ascendency comes amid a larger (yes, there is something larger) sense that our collective reckoning is coming due - that the piper stands in near view now, waiting to be paid - that the seven years (decades really) of plenty may be coming to an end - that the environmental comeuppances we have kicked down the road have piled up as a barricade we are about to hit at full speed - be the occupant of the Oval Office whosoever.

The werewolf is coming.

Maybe it's for these reasons, and for others, that Paul Simon's newish song "Werewolf" is running through my head - and an interview the preeminent songwriter gave NPR's "All Songs Considered," dissecting his werewolf with Bob Boilen:

[Boilen:] "This is sort of the Angel of Death, this is the end - that's what I take it as."

[Simon:] Well, it's some bad news for sure, if it's not the Angel of Death - which I guess you could say, although I wasn't thinking that - I was thinking, we're about to get hit with all the stuff that people have been saying we're going to get hit with for a long time, and it's coming.

"Flight shall fail the swift, the strong shall find no strength, and the warrior shall not save his life. The bowman shall not hold his ground, and the fleet-footed shall not escape, nor the horseman save his life." (Amos 2:14-15)

The werewolf is coming.

Maybe it's all the holiday shopping, and holidaytime treats to self, amid TV screens full of Syria, Aleppo - and the indictment of intractable consumerism with which Simon starts his song:

Milwaukee man led a fairly decent life
Made a fairly decent living
Had a fairly decent wife
She killed him--sushi knife
Now they're shopping
For a fairly decent afterlife
The werewolf is coming

[Simon:] "I'm pretty happy with all these 'fairly decent's, then the quick turn, 'she killed him,' and then the specific, 'sushi knife,' shows you the kind of household they had, if they had a sushi knife, you know, and 'now they're shopping for a fairly decent afterlife...' they're still shopping."

"Thus said the Eternal One: For three transgressions of Israel and for four, I will not revoke it-- Because they have sold for silver those whose cause was just, and the needy for a pair of sandals." (Amos 2:6)

The fact is most obits are mixed reviews
Life is a lottery
A lot of people lose
And the winners, the grinners
With money-colored eyes
Eat all the nuggets
Then they order extra fries
The werewolf is coming
('Extra fries...')
The werewolf is coming

Eerily, Simon wrote his song before the primary season of the long election fight had even kicked off - and prophetically:

Ignorance and arrogance
The national debate
Put the fight in Vegas
That's a billion-dollar gate
Revenue: Pay-per-view
Should be pretty healthy
The usual deductions
Then it all goes to the wealthy
Still the werewolf's coming

The werewolf's coming
Yes, the werewolf is coming, Joe
I hear her howling
Prowling on the hill
The werewolf's coming, Bill

NB: The werewolf of Simon's song happens to be female. This really is not merely about Trump (werewolfish as... but I've said that).

"Does a lion roar in the forest When he has no prey? Does a great beast let out a cry from its den without having made a capture? Does a bird drop on the ground in a trap with no snare there? Does a trap spring up from the ground unless it has caught something?" (Amos 3:3-5)

The werewolf is coming.

Yeah, the werewolf's coming
I'm not complaining
Just the opposite, my friend
I know it's raining
But we're coming to the end of the rainbow

"Ah, I will slow your movements, as a wagon is slowed when it is full of cut grain." (Amos 2:13)

The lying and the spying are through
Oh! You don't know me?
O.K. I don't know you, too
The werewolf's coming

"Hear this word, O people of Israel, that the Eternal One has spoken concerning you, concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt: You alone have I singled out of all the families of the earth - that is why I will call you to account for all your iniquities." (Amos 3:1-2)

You'd better stock up on water
Canned-goods off the shelves
And loot some for the old folks
Can't loot for themselves
The doorbell's ringing
Could be the elves
But it's probably the werewolf

"Indeed my Lord the Eternal One does nothing without having revealed his purpose to his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7)

It's quarter to twelve
And when it's midnight
And the wolf bites
It's a full moon
She really got the appetite
The werewolf's coming

Maybe it's just that winter break has come at Harvard, and I want you to hear a good (foreboding) song - and a good conversation with a songwriter.

Or maybe it will turn out he, and I, are just crying wolf.

The werewolf is coming.