Moses (Part 4)


Continued from last week

beyond the sky then since the moon is dead. deeper to where abides
water in her deepest absence cradling the seas. farther where the word assumes
transparence and the earth with the human voice
unhusked, unshadowed, no longer seeks
the grimy density of echoes, the weighty pause: god of the sky
beyond the sky, god of the waters beyond the oceans,
god of the word in the deepest silence—somewhere nowhere
where the stars begin, where light uncloses like a flower of night
where light is darkness and darkness light, where time is an instant
and the instant endless, there if i am to find my lost self
must i seek a god…sheol is the world and in sheol
there are only men and false gods. to see the true god,
if he exists, is to die. across the wound that gapes,
from my blood to my blood, i know you, unknowable!
across the painful chasms, from my word to my word,
i speak your name, unnameable! everywhere and nowhere,
in my heart’s nothingness, i find you, most hidden, most withdrawn!
by my lack infinite, i reach you, farthest one!
you have but to speak to me, and i am! speak!
pierce my nothingness with your shafts of being!
deign but to whisper my tenuous name! even just its shadow,
its shadow’s shadow! draw me out of sheol, of death!
call me, “moses”, “son”! you have but to speak to me,
and i am!…
“moses, moses!”
“here am i!”
“do not come near;
put off your shoes from your feet,
for the place on which you are standing
is holy ground. i have seen
the affliction of my people
who are in egypt,
and have heard their cry
because of their taskmasters;
i know their sufferings
and i have come down to deliver them
out of the hands of the egyptians;
and to bring them up out of that land
to a good and broad land,
a land flowing with milk and honey…
come, i will send you to pharaoh,
and bring the sons of Israel
out of egypt…”
“who am i
that i should go to pharaoh,
and bring the sons of israel
out of egypt?”
“but i will be with you;
and this shall be the sign for you,
that i have sent you:
when you have brought forth the people out of egypt
you shall serve god upon this mountain.”
“if i come to the people of israel and say to them,
‘the god of your fathers has sent me to you,’
and they ask me, ‘what is his name?’
what am i to say to them?
“i am who am.
say this to the people of israel,
‘I AM has sent me to you’.
say this to the people of israel
‘the lord, the god of your fathers,
the god of abraham, the god of isaac,
and the god of jacob,
has sent me to you’: this is my name forever,
and thus am i to be remembered
throughout all generations.”
“I AM WHO AM” and “moses” is nothing
beside the merest shadow of that name…
god of the fathers, infinite alphabet,
god who healed the wounds of my blood.
god of the fathers, three-lettered abyss
where from your lips of pure destruction
do I locate my naked name?
god of the purple sky, infinite glance,
god who restored the stars to their light.
god of the fathers, three-lettered absence
where in your pure deluge of being
stand precarious my nothingness?
god of the pure sea, murmur of salt,
shore of my tears, anchorage of light.
god of the fathers, three lettered presence,
where in your blinding flood of pure light
do i locate my slender gaze?
god of the pure earth, infinite shadow,
shadow of pure light, original point.
god of the fathers, abyss-crested word,
where in your pure stream of silence
do i locate my raucous song?
you have addressed me lord, and i am.
you have judged me worthy of the covenant, and i am.
fierce unrelenting cry of the desert i am.
and in my desert nothingness, in the sand’s burning crest,
in the manes of the wind i am.
…and, but, is it really you, are you really there,
that has addressed me, or merely myself
addressing myself…? and how can i be if you are,
since, if i am—and i AM—then you cannot be
that dreamt-of beyond but a mere godling
like the sun or the sea or the nile, or, indeed, myself…and thus,
myself?… for if you created me, then must we not be,
at least by that one thread the same by which
you were able thus to create me? and thus by that one thread
less than the god who is no mere godling?
and thus mere godling? and thus nothing, only
myself?…myself and myself self-contradicting
myself in a self-contradictory dream?…

{iv} Combat with God
did i not know the stings of flesh
the shuddering loins in the dark sweet nest
the tears, the tears, in the quivering rain
the secret mirror in my deepest grief
the bite of envy in the plum of courage
the share of pride in the youthful justice
that made me snatch the crown of princes
and install it upon my brilliant head
and the burning coal i was forced to choose
to hide in the child the premature beauty
the robust grandeur of a poet’s soul
that teased with death in that usurpation
the coal that glared like a rabid sun
in my secret eyes in my hidden heart
the crimson coal that growled like a lion
the terrible word with its manes of fire
leashed in my tongue that sizzles still
with boundless hatred of masters and tyrants
did i not cry in my mother’s arms at parting
To be continued…
did i not harbour in my guts the fear
like a thousand noisome needles i did not want affirmed
by fleeing to the desert the greater to be brave?
did i not feed with imagined blood
with egyptian wailings with pharaoh’s head
severed with the pure knife of my lucid hate
and my lightning anger the eyes still open
the ravenous tiger that in my dreams avenged
daily my trodden blood? did i not with myself
and the desert feast, raising many a cup of wine abrim
with empty speeches of our common glory,
our brilliant sadness? could i have forgotten?, no,
i have not forgotten the red face of that hour
at play with the crown prince i wanted to pluck out
those jaded royal eyes that they might know the dust
when down i rolled them like a new set of toys?
did i not recall still that many times, awake and dreaming,
the dark had convinced me i must be a god
i would have forgotten the hardest task of all
tonight, which is that of being a man
and a man sworn to free my exploited people
by bringing them to the mount of light
it was the lord’s demon come to tempt me
it was god’s dark face come to shatter mine
that i might not forget i was a man…
it was myself who adored the stone
it was myself who refused the covenant
it was myself who wanted to be master
and would go back to egypt to fulfill a dream
of another sheol that with me as king
would fetter god anew by feterring man…
it was another of my many deaths
it was the circumcision of my soul
it was my tongue singed by a thunderbolt
it was the last step in that arduous ascent
to the glimmering peaks of the word…
it was a fight to the death with the old god
that was yahweh’s another face…
it was another of my many births
it was a wrestling with the great night
a burning argument with the essence of fire
a nightlong reminder from the dread abyss
that the gods are dead and the ultimate goal
is the freedom of man under god…
it was the last stand of the granite
the final rebellion of the rippling nile
with longing eyes that wrenched my heart
with desperate cries that ripped my blood
that only healed with the touch of light
of the lilyfingered dawn…
it was my eyes suspended for a whole night
between the stars and the abyss…
it was the stars come to tempt me,
it was the stars invading my tent
to drive away the infinite darkness
which is the infinite light…it was
my right arm to the earth yet sworn
and my left already to the unseen light…
it was the earth a maiden moaning
wet with her juices trembling with love
pleading her white arcs her undulations
and i a jacob rode the hills to the moon
that would they were my sole delight…
it was the lord horned like a demon
it was god’s dark hand come to gouge my eyes
that i might not forget i was a man
and a man sworn already to free my people
by bringing them to the mount of light
lord i have killed the demon you sent me
and have dashed the stars on the ground of your word
the last that pursued me from the wide calendar
as the dawn scatters the dark face of the night
my word is purer, let us renew the pact…
i will go to egypt to free my people, your people,
and you will be with us.
we will blot out from the face of the earth
the memory of gods
and you will be with us.
we will erase from the seas and lands of your creation
the memory of kings and masters
and you will be with us.
no man again shall be master to man,
and you will be with us.
each will work and rule the land
and you will be with us.
i will be with them as far as the abyss
that will gape between me and my memory
and you with us.
be with me now lord, i am off
to start the revolution…

To be continued…


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