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