Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely God is present in this place, and I did not know it!” Shaken, he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.”
—Genesis 28: 16–17
זּ House of God, doorway of heaven
Here I awoke,
my head of rock on your pillow of dust.
It was the entrance to your house, or no more than a door,
or no more than a lock, or no more than a latch,
or no more than a seal
unbroken by your presence.
A vacant house, abandoned in your terrible grace.
Sacred place of your absence:
house of God,
stairway of heaven,
rhythmical rung where everything descends and rises
in its own time, to the one abyss.
Here I awoke, my head of rock
on your bed of dust. In your nothingness, I was a guest.
My one desire, my awakening,
is that in all the facets of your world
my own existence be made nothing, too.
הּ Empty house, world’s abode
You only inhabit that single unknown place
where you are no god or goddess,
no guardian father or mother of nurture:
only yourself when you are featureless and free.
Being who is not. Unreconciled. Unplaced and unknown.
Free of names
Only here where I cannot recognize you are you present.
Only emptied of yourself are you my guest. Destitute Father,
great breast at which we fast. Shepherdless flock.
Unspeaking muse. Home with no address.
World’s dwelling place.
טּ Home with no address, country of dust
The lover is on his way.
If my home had a dwelling place,
if my body had a room,
if my soul had a bed,
my arm would be his pillow,
my heart a cup of tea to warm him to sleep,
my soul his first bride.
The messenger arrives, brings to the wrong house
a letter of illiterate love:
on behalf of fate I receive it.
The lover comes.
If my love had a circular shape
I would place it on your ring
to seal our nuptial parting
from all things.
The lover comes
with his endless message of love
on blank paper.
וּ Your house is vacant, invisible:
The invisible is divine.
God is impossible. The impossible is divine.
God is most great. The most great is divine.
God is powerful. Strength is divine.
God is silence. Silence is divine.
I am commonplace. What is common is divine.
I am small. What is small is human.
I am weak. What is human is weak. But
you are small, impossible, and of this world.
You are visible. The visible is divine.
You are small. What is small is divine.
You are fragile. The fragile is divine.
You are of this world. The worldly is divine.
But silence gives way to the voice, but
the unseen gives way to the seen, but
the void gives way to the world, but
the impossible gives way to the possible, but
today in this world everything is greater than I,
more fragile than I:
today in the world nothing says I, and everything is multiple
and clear and enigmatic and in good company,
the divine and the worldly, the small and the great,
the void and solid things, beasts and angels,
soul and skin, what takes up space and what makes way.
Today in the world only I say I:
only I pretend to fit into the world
only I pretend to fit into the void
only I pretend to fit into the silence
only I pretend to fit into the word
only I pretend not to understand
and to understand it all.
גּ Wrestling with the angel
I took hold of an angel with your hands
I held him by the neck
I held him by the hair
I held him by the wings
I held him by the ears
I held him by the voice
I did not let him go until he blessed you
I let him go until the day
when you will read these words.
Translated from the Spanish by Dan Bellm
All Rights Reserved © Javier Acosta, Libro del abandono, Ediciones Era, México, 2010.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.