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Prairie Schooner 80.2 (2006) 73-75



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And on the Seventh Day, and: The Jewish Calendar

And on the Seventh Day

Separating light from darkness, that was nothing
drawing together the waters, nothing
filling waters with finned creatures, sky
with winged creatures, covering land with greens, calling
forth nut and fruit from the deep root, scattering
crawlings about the earth, that was nothing, really
call it a day, call it a night, it was
nothing really, though it was motion, many motions
though it was language, many languages
it was nothing, nothing really tough enough
to exhaust Him, to deplete Him
though it was generation, though it was instinct
jaw and fang, small brain and scale
feather and shell, saw-toothed and lobed, womb and egg
hoof and claw, it was nothing, many species of nothing
constellations of nothing, really, to write home about
though it was gas, though it was explosive
nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that didn't abide
by its own laws, nothing that didn't present its nature forthrightly
it was nothing really, though it was cell and it was nerve,
the nerve of the One who created matter
what is the matter, what would be the matter
hadn't shown itself, not yet, not really
not its audacious self, not its restraint and abandon
not its wicked humor, there wasn't a laugh yet in the universe
not its perverse pleasure, inscrutable motives, it didn't
show itself, not on the first day, however good
not on the second day, though it too was passably good
not on the third fourth or fifth days, blossom and decay [End Page 73]
something was happening but what it was was nothing really
nothing to write about, though we wrote about it, we thought
to make something of it, we thought about it
though it was nothing surprising, not to the One
who called it forth and called it good, that's what He called it
though He wasn't satisfied
good as every cave and bone, muscle and mound, wind
and combustible thing in the world was, He sensed
something else, something excessive
of flesh and blood, something defiant
and meek, some one thing that would be reason
to restrain Himself
from destroying it all at once, something He could call
very good, very good, very, very good
and then surrender, let life
pulse at its own rate,
and then rest, let it vibrate
its own crazy vibration

The Jewish Calendar

The twenty-fifth of Kislev, eight-branched
night, reminds Hellenists of their vanquishing,
the ninth of Av, burnt-cork day, reminds
Babylonians and Romans of our defeat.

The first of Tishri reminds the waters
of their reluctant parting, and the tenth
reminds all who died of the fire
of transgression. [End Page 74]

The sugar of our Shabbos nap
reminds clerk and server, seamstress, cop – all
who belong to the seventy nations of labor –
those not chosen for rest.

Your father's dying kiss – the date
assigned to this loss yet to be
revealed. But in burnt-flesh Jerusalem
some orphan's howl shatters domes

day and night, never letting Kaddish
forget its duty to gather ten souls
to proclaim, at the proper hour, God's
everlasting, inscrutable glory.

Richard Chess is the author of Tekiah, Chair in the Desert, and Seventy Faces (available this fall), all from the University of Tampa Press.


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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-426X
Print ISSN
0032-6682
Pages
pp. 73-75
Launched on MUSE
2006-05-31
Open Access
No
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