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Old Jehovah word. And world. Chopped
Off a hand caught
In the greasy till. Plucked out
An eyeball too transparently
Gazing on beauty.

——————-—And what of the tongue
Too long in the silky purse
Of the coveted spot, slurping up
Every pearl? That too, that
Too must be punishèd. A heated needle
In its tip and sulcus. A fat stake
In its glossolalia. And what the throat
Swallowed, let the throat grow
Like a scarlet cancer.


And never never never never?
——–—No, never never again.
For the Unnamed One is
In our head, like a burning
Bush, a pillar of fire, all-
——–—Seeing, all-consuming.


What have we to do with pleasures of the body?
We are to know the body and multiply.
We are to be more numerous than the heavenly bodies.
Isaac and Ishmael and Zimran and Shuah enumerated from our bodies.
Abraham and Sarah and Hagar and Keturah.

Is there no instruction for pleasure?
The generations go on and on. Rachel and Jacob and Leah…
Adah and Esau and Judith… There are myrrh
And hyssop, fire stick and grinding stone, salt
And straw broom, oil lamp and magic bowl.

—————————————And pleasure?
Days and years as a desert wanderer.
And rumors persistent as roots: somewhere
A green oasis, a deep well, somewhere
A fountain where wanderers

May remove their clothes and wash—and pleasure?
Not to wash clean, mind you, just to wash
In the lush shade, hidden from the burning
Sun, just to be a naked body, and not burn.



Neil Shepard’s most recent books are How It Is: Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry) and Vermont Poets & Their Craft (Green Writers). His new collection, The Book of Failures (Madville), will appear in 2024.



Image courtesy of Marin Tulard, via Unsplash.

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