Deuteronomy [poem] by Sue Swartz

Moses spoke to the Israelites regarding all that God
had commanded—

 

This is the book of sayings and things,
what is made real by our telling.

In it: our story is the story.
In it: allusion we cannot grasp.

And this is the book of incidents & accidents,
where God came in person to say—

Where floating out there, tumbling
down there—

Where repetition raises an arc of desire
and we spiral back—

****

We were nothing at first.
Then the story found us.

We were young once—

Dust before we were multitudes.
Blueprint before we were steel.

Every \ˈstȯr-ē\ is like this story:
part rousing prophecy, part iron furnace.

****

I am an experiment.
I am a recipient.
Preservationist. Translator. Monument.
I remember it though I was not there.
Saw it with my own eyes.
I am a mnemonic.
I am a mosaic.
Time machine.

A telegraph tapping
from my mouth to your ear—
History, taxonomy, fragment, reprise.
Does it matter if the words are true
or truth or truer still?

I am a schematic.
I am a joist.
Bastard vernacular. Everything begot.
I am revelation and bad relation,
encyclopedia of this and that.
Both/and. Either/or.
Enclosure, torment, atlas, key.

I am a reader.
I am the text.

On my knees in the paper temple.

****

This is the book of annotation.

In it, we rewrite the way back.
In it, we wander out loud—

Each of us a syllable just trying
to understand.

 

Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: This poem refers to Anne Harding Woodworth’s poem “Quantum” and Aimee Harris’s poem “Book Life.”]

Sue Swartz is a writer, visual artist, social activist, Jewish communal leader, and all-around good egg living in Bloomington, Indiana. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Poetica, Cutthroat, Lilith, 5 a.m., Smartish Pace, and elsewhere.

Image by Nick Hubbard