February 22, 2012

Poem to Daniel Pearl


Note: A couple of weeks ago, I spent some time in Los Angeles with the parents of Daniel Pearl, a brilliant and courageous reporter for the Wall Street Journal who, ten years ago this month, was kidnapped and slaughtered by terrorists in Pakistan. At the time of his death, Danny’s wife, Mariane, was pregnant with their son. In the videotape that the terrorists forced Danny to make before they killed him, he spoke bravely and plainly of his identity, “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”

Since that unspeakable day, the Pearl family members, each in their own way, have kept the memory of Danny alive in many ways—in books, lectures, scholarships, a foundation. The other day, Judea Pearl, Danny’s father, sent me a poem that he had written not long ago… —David Remnick

The Lions’ Den
To Daniel Pearl on the Anniversary of His Death
by Judea Pearl

Come walk the road to lions’ den
South of midnight, planet earth, Karachi, Pakistan.
Some called it “nursery,” some named it “shed,”
A “compound,” “shack,” the newspapers said.

I found it in my father’s holy book,
“The lions’ den,” the caption read.

Come touch the walls on which two eyes
with thousand dreams wrote songs
and fiercest battles, ancient wars,
for seven days, went on.

Never in the field of human conflict
Has there been a clash so total
so intense in charge and aim
Between two cosmic forces
so compressed in space

So opposed in vision
so rooted in conviction
Across so close a distance
Before so many eyes.

Never stood a son of Abel
so fiercely to the face of Cain
A giver—to the teeth of claim,
A curious—to the blinds of self.
A listener—to the deafening shrieks of zeal.


Never beamed a ray of light
so deeply to the core of darkness
Music, to estrangement,
Principles, to whims
Reason, to the impulse
Mankind, to Attila, the Hun

Never was this saga chanted
in so powerful a rhyme:
“My name is Daniel Pearl,”
Softly spoken from the den,
Softly, from Karachi, Pakistan

And when Daniel was lifted from the den,
So the Bible tells us,
No wound was found on him,
Because he stood his ground
Because he stood our ground
So the Bible tells us.
(Daniel 6:28)