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Out of the water came a babe, his tale
Relayed for generations now retold
Anew as God commanded me, His child;
His word like thunder flails my feeble mind
And without hindrance guides my hand to write.
Out of the water came a man who led
His people through the desert sands; he gave
Them laws and solace from his God who spoke
To him and him alone, as He recites
To me. God grant me strength to sing Divine —
A whisper on the desert wind
Is borne upon a draft. It drifts across
The serried grains; the fleeting phantom stalks
The wingéd beasts into the firmament.
Ere now the doleful voice called loudly forth;
It cleaved the lids and beat the brain of that
High priest, the desert guide, the warrior king
Of Levi’s clan. Like Sinai’s fire the voice
Commanded — man could not refuse to move;
The word of God held fast the fleeting dream
And bound the man in action, deed, and feat.
The voice of late has not so great the strength
In its demands. His people stranded in
The wild, the veering vicar often looks
To Yahweh — Hebrew god — no other in
Their pantheon; this Jewish god with spite
And zeal did smite contender gods with naught
But him who from the waters came — Moses —
“My Lord, it is as you command. The lambs
Are killed, their innards spilled, the sacrifice
Fulfilled.” The blood-soaked altar reeks of gore,
And entrails paint the floor with crimson tinge.
The brazen altar scarce recalls a time
When it was not suffused with beastly flesh.
Promiscuous guts, a ghastly rainbow, stain
The clothéd shrine. The lesser priests with hands
Incarnadine prepare a sacred beast
For sacrifice — the bleating calf uplifts
Its pallid head as Joshua hoists his steel,
The sacrificial blade adorned with life
Removed from since dissolvéd beasts. It kills
With brash impunity, for God condones
The slaughter of the innocent — be man
Or beast — to keep His sacred covenant.
The high priest speaks as Joshua grips the flesh-
Starved death blade in his fervid, quiv’ring hand.
“But wait!” The high priest barks aloud and stops
The readied sword.
“You heard the voice again?”
The lower priest and nephew dear inquires.
The senior shepherd stares intent at blood
And organs mingled on the sacred shrine,
Expecting godly auspices, but none
Appear in eye or ear — the guts are dumb.
“He only called my name but twice, and yet
He speaks no more. Now slay the beast and I
Will scan the entrails for an auspice of
My God, the Savior to the Levite tribe,
The desert Guide, who till this day has lead
Us from our enmity and hostile foes.”
With sacred fervor fresh renewed he guides
The whetted keel through sinewed surf until
A virgin path is birthed — organic sea
Beasts berthed upon the earth — the languid corpse
Collapses with a clump; but one last breath
Escapes the sacrificial offering.
Its fleshly furrows cloven deep spew forth
The grume that dampens sacred temple sand.
Then ebbing tides of blood retreat within
The grains of gruesome strand; the ghastly froth
Of briny sea, it flees the curdled ponds beneath
The sandaled feet of zealous Hebrew priests.
A younger priest inhales the stench of death,
The noxious trace of life escaped, the reek
Of sacred flesh. It flames his nose and burns
His throat, and outward pours the contents of
His gut to mingle with the entrails of
The sacrificial brutes.
“Get out! Get out!”
Another lesser cleric guides the ill
One from the tent. The angered leader rents
His robe before he turns his vicious vent
Upon the one who trained the boy. “Your sick
And callow priest profaned our beastly rite.
Instruct the people punish him for this
Most cardinal crime; as God commanded take
Forth stone and smite him unto death.” Without
Delay the nescient priests all scurry from
The tent, save Joshua who addresses his
Commander chief, the Semite shepherd-king —
“But Moses, he’s a priest ordained by God
And you alike. His guilt is not his own
But nature’s bid. Please uncle, spare his life.”
Now Moses ever livid grows, his eyes
Aglow like treach’rous embers under beds
Of dying fire; his aspect dire he turns
On brother priest like lion king when beast
Is killed for pride to share, but fledgling youth
Essay to gain the lion’s feast ere cubs
Are fed; his lordship threatened in the shrine
That God ordained to him alone; this pert
And saucy provent kin has galled the priest,
The peevish king; this youth hath fired his ire —
“And even you, my cousin dear, are not
Above God’s law. The sacred rite should you
Have spoiled, you too would face His deadly wrath.
Of Hebrew gods there is but One, and He
In candor speaks to me, His verity
Conveyed through me to you as law decreed.
This law is clear — the qualmish priest must die.”
He, fuming, scuttles through the canvas doors
And boldly fronts the horded vengeful tribe.
The youthful priest, upon his knees, implores
The Israelites to save his life and spare
His godly soul. And many in the crowd
With stone uplifted drop their rocks and pray
To Moses, “Spare his life. This cannot be
The only way to cleanse him of his sin.”
But others in the mob hold fast, intent
On stoning him. The severed kin unease
The man upon whose shoulders rest the word
And will of God. Now Moses’ ire foments —
The binding covenant abides, the pact
Between the Hebrew tribe and Him who brought
The Jews from slavery and through the sands,
From Ramses through the wilderness. The sea
Of Reeds was cleaved so He could free us from
The gods of Pharaoh’s commonwealth; He guides
Our blades and drives our spears and strikes our foes
With brash pugnacity and stalwart force.
How easily his people draw a blank;
How can this priest maintain his godly rank?
Stone him. Stone him, Moses. Smite him forthright.
The voice is clear and loud, emitted from
A cloud above the head of Yahweh’s priest,
Who heaves his stone and rouses wrathful throng
To do the same against the youth who did
Profane the sacred liturgy and risked
The lives of Hebrew ranks descending on
The Canaanites in deadly days to come.
The trembling, tim’rous priest collapses as
His head and limbs are buffeted by stone
And rock, the Levite executer’s tools.
Dissevered skull releases fleeting soul
As sanguine oozes grossly cross the sod;
The shattered bones and pummeled limbs contort.
The weak among the Jews abort this vile
And gruesome act of priestly sacrifice.
They plead with Joshua, son of Nun, to ask
Of Moses (or his god) to stop the gore
Of ritual that as of late has grown
Into a baleful show of primal urge.
“The covenant should not have meant that death
Should govern every aspect of our lives;
This god of Moses doth require a blood-
Borne sacrifice for each decision, grave
Or trite; for small offenses he requites —
He calls his murder punishment and doles
It out with grim content; he’s murdered young
And innocent; he forces laws upon
This tribe as God speaks somehow just to him.
His madness — “
“Stop. You mustn’t speak of God’s
Most gifted prophet with distrusting tongue.
Your vacillation troubles me, but not
Without the thought that I myself have doubts
At times about the prophet’s vexing words.”
“Then what are we to do but follow this
Confounded madman through the desert sands
And slay our brothers on a whim because
His privy god appeared and spoke to him?”
The son of Nun beset with strife adjourns
This brief but taxing talk as Moses joins
The ranks and questions why these Jews refused
To do as God Almighty had ordained
Them to. So Joshua starts to their defense,
“They merely question all the blood your god
Requires of us. The burden isn’t just
The flock and harvest — constant carnage spoils
Their minds and dulls their souls like butchers in
The slaughterhouse who kill without a thought
Of life and limb they take — they matter not.
Or like the bowman in the wood, no boon
Or mercy ever known to light upon
His prey, dispatches life without regret.”
Conflicted, Moses peers into the sky,
And one by one his people steal away —
They fear the priest, but more they fear his god.
The silence racks his brain as Joshua takes
His arm and leads him to the sacred tent.
“The people’s fears are justified — they think
Your god has left your side and speaks no more,
And with our blood you charm the deity
To reappear. I want to know the truth.
Does God still speak to you?”
“He speaks to me.”
Without another word the prophet storms
Away as Joshua swiftly keeps his pace.
The younger days of this old sage have passed;
His pace declines, and soon he stops to rest
His ancient frame. The son of Nun again
Requests the shepherd-king’s divinity —
“Among us there are some who still can hear
Jehovah’s voice, and I myself have heard
The strident words of our Creator God.
Perhaps the time to pass the leadership
And sacred duty to a younger one
Has come, and like the alpha jackal who
Must step aside because of age or else
Be mangled by the pack, you too must give
Up sovereignty to one more capable.”
The prehistoric patriarch again
Looks to the sky and reminisces on
The days when God not only spoke, but showed
His glory in a burning bush, a cloud
Of fire or misty fog; his thoughts now turn
To Abraham, the founding father of
His race, the ancient sacred sage who walked
With God and saw His face, old Terah’s son,
Who also freed his family from the grasp
Of Egypt’s wicked king; the Maker gave
To him the prudent pact of Promised Land.
Before him Noah, his auspicious ark
Had saved all creatures from the wrath of One
Exhausted from the sinful human race —
God spoke directly to the pilot of
The sacred bark; His voice was audible
And stark, His visions palpable and real.
And first of all of us was touched by God’s
Almighty hand — though Adam soon was forced
To flee those flawless trees, his gnosis of
The God of Jews was more than Moses in
His dreams had ever had the grace to see.
“He speaks to me but not as oft and not
As loud; His voice will echo off a cloud,
Or flapping wings distorted by the wind
Will sing to me in tones inaudible;
The tempest gales palaver whims, but scarce
Can I discern the words they blow in my
Direction. Visions only come to me
Of late when death I imitate in sleep,
And when they do, my brother Jew, the priest
And pastor of our tribe who passed to God —
Dear Aaron — is not with us to unfold
To me the meaning of my furtive dreams.
His body rests atop the mountain crest
Of Hor, the sacred ridges whence his soul
Up flew to God Almighty where it looms
In Heaven until Armageddon comes.
And Miriam, my sister sage who praised
His name and heard the blest celestial voice,
Was left in Zin, that fragile mortal frame
Still decomposing in the arid sand,
Her spirit free from ailment and disease,
But ne’er again can she give rede to me.
Did Abraham in his old age give sway
To time and lose his mind’s ability
To speak to God, or did Jehovah still
His voice for some transgression ‘gainst His will?
Was Adam’s Eden exodus a sign
That God abandons us as hoary chins
And agéd sins adorn archaic frames?
This cannot be the plight God planned for me.”
Again the priest admires the firmament,
His gaze intent on seeing Him in all
His grace and glory, but his human eyes
Betray him to the skies, and naught appear
To him but clouded wights; perfid’ous ghosts
Of vapors float across the blue divine;
Oases in the sky, mirages high,
Defy his pondering imaginings.
An owl swoops by and flying nigh reviles
The prophet with his hoot then loots the ground
Without a sound and deftly whisks away
His feast; with entrails hanging from the beast,
The ghastly pair turns to a speck as owl
And dinner flee the scene, but not before
A bloody harbinger is drizzled on
The desert floor. The prophet, solemn, kneels
To see the message God hath left for him.
“’Tis but an owl and nothing more.” The young
Priest to his king implores, “Please, Moses do
Not take this as a godly sign of His
Divine intention — this is just an act
Of Nature’s pact among the predator
And prey. It signals naught and should be thought
No longer in this way. ’Tis but an owl.”
“’Tis but an owl?” The priestly scowl reveals
The chiding tone of him alone who speaks
To God and knows His word and gives His law.
“’Tis never but an owl, a cloud, a sound —
Through Mother Earth’s phenomena our God
The Father speaks to us, and only those
With prudent mind and righteous soul discern
Correctly Yahweh’s fervent, sacred words.”
“Then what, pray tell, does this portend, these dregs
Of perished prey’s coagulated core?
A symbol of our language I can see,
And possibly it has a meaning we
May understand as God’s benign command.
But what if this is balderdash, and all
Your crass and carnal sacrificial rites,
Your brutal, baleful liturgy, are but
Befuddled rumination, scrutiny
Of muddled mind and baffled brain, and all
The teeming lives that you have claimed are but
The victims of your vicious vagaries?”
“I do detest this accusation, you —
A junior priest! I could with but a word
Arouse the crowd to curb your insolence;
The stone and sword shall send you to the Lord!
Anointed one or not, insidious talk
Like this will cost you precious life and limb.”
“You murder on a whim! No wonder you
Cannot control the wand’ring Hebrew tribe —
There is a faction of the Jews who’ve tired
Of Moses and his bloodshed. They have vowed
To follow me if you succumb to this
Insanity. But I have made a pact
With you to follow God and Moses too,
And I with honor follow through; my word
Is credible and true. So fear me not,
My uncle dear — I only give you heed
To temper bloody deeds, or else you’ll die
Alone, the victim of the sword or stone,
The favored prop of murd’rous Hebrew stock.”
A silence settles on the furrowed brow
Of one who rarely ponders anything
But what his god Jehovah speaks to him.
So Joshua deftly plans his coming words
To soften Moses, chief of Jewish herds;
For Moses oft is wont to stone the ones
Who question him; more joyously he puts
To death the clods who doubt the word of God.
Yet Moses now with even brow does not
Enrage as usual, but throws his arm
Around this credulous though noble coz
And guides him gently to his family tent.
“Do not deliberate too much on this —
I’ll see my God most certainly when I
Asleep espy the visionary trance,
And there my God will show to me what I
Am meant to do — I feel the tension in
My gut, my briskly beating heart; my breath
Is short, my muscles taut. This only means
That in my dreams tonight He will appear
To me, and by the morn His will be done —
He’ll send a holy harbinger, and then
The Jews will have no reason for their scorn.”
“A sign you’ll explicate to suit your state!”
The junior priest reflects as Moses, vexed,
Respects his strength but not his sapience.
As twilight wanes and evening looms, the priest
Admires the rising moon and comprehends
How other lands and other tribes could sing
To this celestial thing whose glow and sheen
Come solely from the keen and agile hand
Of man’s Creator God and Guardian.
And out the stars to prove the heavens hang
Atop our heads; yet Pagan tribes confuse
These lucent angels with ungodly muse
And follow voices strange to him who leads
This tribe of Jews through sand and dune — how dost
The Grecian speak to all the gods in his
Impious pantheon? Egyptians bound
His people to construct their massive shrines
Adorning all their num’rous deities —
Did Pharaoh in reality descry
A visions so distinct as to inspire
The building of those pyramidal spires?
And even those of Jewish blood who, saved
From Yahweh’s flood and from his manna fed,
Still consecrate the god of Babylon;
Apostate murmurs from the golden calf
Corrode the power Moses holds and thwart
His godly right to rule this Hebrew tribe.
He drifts to sleep with Baal the foe in mind.
Moses. Moses. On the morrow kill the
Canaanites and slaughter all their darling
Bairns and kin, but save the virgins for the
Men to split between their lusty limbs, and
Take their gold to build our shrines and fund our
Wars and guard our tribe from future serfdom.
The old man rubs his eyes and turns his head,
And lifting from his bed the voice abates
As always in this state — his partial sleep,
It teases him with faded colloquy.
But soon the senior falls again to Death’s
Fugacious kin, and in his dreams he now
Can see a vision of Jehovah God —
Upon the tabernacle sits a cloud
Of fire and smoke, caliginous at first,
But then the smoke begins to clear, and soon
A face appears amid the burning fumes.
The countenance that sits upon the tent
Is reminiscent of the founder Jew —
Old Abraham appears as God in most
Of Moses’ dreams and yet resembles one
Who fathered him who from the waters came.
But Moses never questions why his god
Would take the shape of founder, father, friend,
Or fog. The stalwart voice he irrefutes;
If garrulous or mute, it is the sole
Decision maker for this witless man.
Bucolic in his origins, he yet
Has learned to read or write, but visions bright
Have catapulted this uncultured one,
A simpleton, up to the tribal throne.
This former yokel now a king abides
The vision’s beckoning — his walking turns
To hovering, and soon he finds himself
Aloft amid the hallowed haziness.
And drifting he and cloud become as one
Ascending toward the sun, then west across
The Jordan Run, but first the misty scud
Dumps Moses with a thud upon the mount
Where he would gasp the gravest breath and meet
His Maker face to face, Who only through
His muddled mind he’d ever viewed; the God
And King of Hebrew kin Who guards us till
Our dying days then shelters us for all
Eternity; the perfect tempest when
Our enemy confronts us, and the odds
Are quite enormous — Yahweh’s lightning strikes
Triumphant those contentious neighbor tribes!
The massive mist departs as Moses rests
Atop the ridge, and looking left and right
He spies his clansmen and his kin, the Jews
Who followed him through sand and wilderness.
“If only they were still with us they might
Assuage their Hebrew siblings to commit
Their hearts and minds to Moses’ mighty God,”
The pastor Aaron breaks the silence from
A desert throne. This spectral vision of
His brother beckons Moses over to
A second seat, much bigger than the one
Upon which sits his blesséd relative.
The kingly shepherd takes his place upon
The stately dais. Aaron then presents
To him the sacred staff that powered them
When battling Amalek, that Semite wretch.
This sylvan stave sent to his grave the foe
Of Moses and his gang, and then the sword
Of Hebrew horde cleaned up the remnants of
The race that God commanded be erased
Forever from the land commissioned to
The Jews, the chosen tribe, the children of
The one authentic God and Deity.
The crushing cane that sent his enemies
To Hell is now again held in the hand
That led his bloody crew to smite the tribes
And armies of the ancient Orient
Who halted Moses’ progress to the land
The Hebrew God had promised Abraham.
Aloft he lifts the staff, and thunder rips
Across the mass of sacred smoke and mist;
Then lightning strikes in fervent spikes that rack
And rape the loamy land of Canaanite.
And from this lofty distant peak the old
And ancient desert priest can still perceive
Those people being slaughtered by his tribe —
Now he with pride beholds his warrior fold.
As shepherd bridles power from above,
His flock procures the land with Canaan blood.
While Moses soundly sleeps and dreams of death
And God’s destruction, youthful herders flock
To Joshua for his wise instruction. From
His tent he tries to calm the clamored crew,
But anxious Jews convey forsaking news —
A mutiny is brewing in the group.
They chaffer for a new commander who
Can lead them through this wilderness into
The land of nectar where that neighbor tribe
Of Canaanites abounds with thwarting crowns,
A leader who with thought and reason guides
The Levites through the seasons of dismay
Without such sacrificial overkill.
“That old man must no longer commandeer
This tribe with murder, miff, and massacre.
You must convince him to step down, or else
Our brothers will supplant him with the stone,
First thrown, then honed into his rival god.”
The faithful prince now comprehends the fate
That yet besets the barding shepherd-king.
Bewildered, Joshua snugly shuts his eyes
And tries to find a fitting compromise
To soothe the apprehended desert tribe.
Anxiety and trepidation wrench
His gut — the palpitation of his heart
Intensifies as if it played a part
In tribal ritual — the mortal drum
Now echoes thund’rous, beating through the breast
Of one who contemplates his galling state.
He craves the Wraith that communes with his kin;
This gravest strait might summon It again.
Joshua — you shall guide the tribe to Canaan.
The flitting words are wan, yet Joshua knows
He is the one — abiding by his God’s
Decree, to him there is no question who
Must lead the Jewish people to the land
Ordained by slain and butchered braying beasts.
“I’ll speak with Moses on the morn and pray
That God does not berate and scorn your lack
Of faith in this most holy warrior-king
And sage, the one who through his rage and with
His sword assails and slaughters for his Lord,
This warmonger who wandered with his tribe
For forty years and in the face of heat
And hunger did provide. With meat of quail
And manna fed, the Jews across the sands
Have tread behind this man of auguries;
The water from the rock he struck (against
God’s will) did quench the throats of thousands who
Would otherwise be rotting still among
The sands and desert hills of wilderness.”
A clerk with contradicting eyes replies:
“Do not suggest that through his quest this fierce
And frenzied pioneer of pastors has
Become the hero of the Hebrew troops.
How many more must die to satisfy
That savage god that only he espies?
Forsooth his leadership has proved itself
On countless fields of battle, and his laws
Have hewn our brutish crew (through obloquy)
Into a tight cohesive pack, not quite
Humane but somewhat tame, enough at least
For him to subjugate and make us fight
For gold and virgins that his generals
Will then unbind unto their randy ranks;
His temple ever grows with plundered loot
Of murdered Semite groups, his sacrifice
And offerings becoming more macabre
And gruesome every time he thinks he hears
An intimation of the Voice Divine —
You must replace this raving lunatic.”
“Do not distress — Jehovah has divulged
Direct instruction that authority
From him will pass to me in days to come.
He only said that I must drive His flock
To Canaan; He did not say how or when.
I do not understand what this portends
Or how to reach this end, but Moses will
Awake, and soon — he spoke of visions in
His dreams before he stole away to sleep;
This always means that when he sees the tribe
Again he will convey the cryptic scene
And make obscene interpretation of
Its meaning. I must clarify this trick
Of mind and analyze it in a way
Behooving of our desperate drifting troop.
But then and only then will God with His
Divine instruction lead us, tempered with
The reason He Himself conceived in me.”
The youthful priests with awe admire this sane
And circumspect adherent deputy.
They clamor now with hopeful hearts instead
Of fury, instantly displacing all
Their loyalties to him without debate;
These simple people oft converted on
A whim by nature’s act, perverted by
Analysis of one who would control
The clan with fear or faith (or both) and reign
With godly sovereignty, himself almost
A deity, deciding life or death
With but a speech, a sound, a single breath:
His power so profound. The auspices
Of Nature’s enigmatic ways abound —
With vile enough volition and a strong
Persuading argument, one can convince
These folksy men to understand the Lord’s
Intent. (at least what Moses thinks He meant)
And now this burden seemingly has passed
To Moses’ junior priest. Now Joshua — but
A dream away from seizing tribal clout
And primacy, displacing lunacy
Of this theogonous autocracy —
Is pond’ring his position, but this robe
Of future leadership is rent with strife,
For it must surely cost that one his life
Who until now, despite the bloodshed, has
Astutely lead these people through the harsh
Foreboding sands, the man who etched the Ten
Commandments on the sanctioned Sinai slate,
Who never let the promise of the state
Across the Jordan waters dissipate.
Does Moses face dilemma when his Lord
Appears to him, or does he do as God
Commands without a fleeting thought about
The consequences of his butchery?
The butcher manifests in Joshua’s tent —
The ranks of shepherds scuttle through the flaps
As Joshua fumbles for a fable to
Appease the Hebrew king before he ends
Up like the priest with bifurcated skull
And pummeled hull still lying on that turf
Where stones deliver spirits from the earth.
But Moses livid never grows, his eyes
Aglow from dreams of conquered peoples in
The land that will be owned by covenant,
(And sword or stone) the land God meant for Jews
To rent for all eternity from Him
Who rescued them from Egypt’s slavery.
That promised land of milk and honey that
With one last battle charge will but enlarge
Their horde and home and let the Hebrews rest
Their weary, warring bones. At last the knaves
Of Canaan will be slaves; contentious gold
And silver idols melted down and used
For Yahweh’s praise; and maidens for his men
To lay or slay — no murder durst dismay
This musing madman who obeys the Voice
Without expostulation. (or delay)
“Asleep I dreamed a portent prophesy
Of Canaan’s carnage in the Promised Land —
The hand of God behind the sword of man.
He lifted me upon a cloud, and from
The mount my kin and I conducted troops
And won the battle for those chosen few.
Yet I awoke before the journey down
The mountain to the sod God granted me,
But nonetheless, this land He blessed to us.
I will go down and tread the plighted ground.”
The prophet’s words remind his lesser of
The land across that narrow waterway
That Yahweh once espoused to Abraham
Soon in the hands of Moses and the dregs
Of his decrepit peers, all others of
His generation gone and buried in
The desert sand somewhere betwixt the fixed
And rugged pyramids and northern lands
Of Syrians where once enslaved they first
Escaped and gained that long enduring name,
Khabiru, which means bandit, (how germane!)
Now somehow settling for the land that runs
The Med’teranean; this beachfront real
Estate is great for crops and flocks of ewe.
Why not accrue this prudent land for Jews?
Why can’t this student lead the Hebrews too?
Joshua — leave this madman on the mountain.
The junior hears His voice and makes his mind:
“This portent of your slumb’ring brain has not
The meaning that you claim — you must abstain
From crossing over to the Promised Land.
You did not wake, for Heaven’s sake, amidst
The vision — it was finished when God sat
You on the throne beside your brother’s bones.
The stave you held was never weld to fight
The arms of Amalek — this rod had struck
The wetted rock and made the pilgrims flock
To quench their blistered throats and sooth their mouths
With flowing waters from the granite fount.
But God commanded Moses not to strike
With staff, but speak the word to split the stone
And sprout the spring that saved His thirsty race.
With that audacious action you had forged
A fervid faction which you knew would come
To find you, Moses, in your dying time.
Your youthful lack of faith hath sealed your fate.
The promised state shall never be your home;
In Moab you for good will rest your bones.”
The prophet contemplates disturbing news
Suggesting that his leadership is due
To change, and even worse — the land that for
Some forty years this man has wandered to
Obtain, the only object of his brain
Throughout his trek across the wilderness
Was this small strip of ground he’d hoped to gain
Forever for his tribal happiness.
Yet Joshua’s words are weighty with a force
That, not unlike the voices in his head,
Compel the man to faith in what he said.
“These words you heard from God?”
“Indeed I did.”
The junior priest confirms the sacred word,
And Moses reckons how to steer the herd.
Moses — you shall not retire in Canaan.
When God speaks to the man the mind is set
In stone and like the Sphinx, that riddling minx,
Immutable — it will indeed succeed
To stand its ground and be around when long
The sound of Hebrew harp has hushed itself;
That lioness and murderess who died
When mighty Oedipus deciphered her
Pernicious puzzle of the man who on
His hands and knees at birth resembles one
Who walks on four, and in his age must use
A cane, and somewhere in between there’s two —
And yet this crafty mother fucker had
Not wit to comprehend the luck (or lack)
That drove him to impend the orbits of
His eyes as penance for his patricide.
So Moses in his mind immovable,
Determined to endow the shepherd crown
To this successor deemed successful by
The people who support him. (and their god)
And so he turns to Joshua, junior priest,
“I must appease my jealous Deity
And lose the hunted land, the fecund strand.
Now you, my prudent protégé, must lead
The Hebrews on their way to Canaan’s clay,
Those promised sands, the bravest bedrock for
The future empire of the chosen clan,
The base our children can return to, spurned
Or burned; and pilgrims new with gods untrue
Will yearn to see the tabernacle and
Eternal temples left by mortal Jews.
These gentiles stormily shall struggle for
The land their emperors and prophets deem
Distinct to distant dogma, sacrifice
And sacred drama all but lost among
Their dharma — recitations of their songs
And prophesies, their prated parables
And blesséd Paul’s imperacy are all
These heretics will need to hear the call
Of Christ. And too the saint of Islam will
Proclaim this land for Allah. (praise His name)
But this is futile prophesy of what
This land may come to be — the battle on
The morrow is the matter now at hand.”
“This tribe is not prepared for fight or flight
Across the Jordan River — we must rest
And gather strength if victory is yet
To be, and Canaan ruthlessly repressed,
Its people guests in servitude and dressed
In Jewish shackles lest they durst protest;
Their mouthy breezes then will cease to blow
As stones are thrown and sharpened swords are swung.
But first we must prepare, for tension in
The air has festered flustered followers.
The stoning of the blustered priest has riled
The files — that flock of folk now question all
The motives of your votive liturgy.
You must appease the Jews’ incessant need
For song and celebration of the hymns
That drive the droves into the throes of war;
The impetus for havoc is the harp
Of hoary happenings — the people must
Adjust their minds to this impending day,
And only woes of vanquished foes will fill
Their gut with appetite for blood and gore,
Their hearts with love of homicide; the pride
Of past extermination of the crushed
And cudgeled nations who attempted to,
But foolishly, attack the warring Jews
Must manifest itself in Hebrew heads
Before their leader can consider how
He plans to demonstrate his dread upon
The people on whom God has said the tribe
Will tread and then forsake the innocents
For dead. (unless they’re virgins, then the men
In rented beds shall snatch their maidenheads)
These people rarely fight with might unless
Their plight you can recite.”
“We sing tonight!”
The older pastor rashly starts to stir
The wakeful sleepers in the clamored camp.
The younger priest surprised to see this old
Man full of energy, but wonders why
He seems so spry in light of harbingers
Of late foretelling of the tolling knell.
It seems the carnal deity’s decrees,
Both dire and dear, inspire the prophet to,
Without reserve, commit his every word
And breath to carry out His tyranny,
To finish every edict even if
It means the genocide of rival tribes.
Yet Moses in his haste has left the waste
And dreck of morrow’s battle for the next
Anointed general, but Joshua knows
Not how to face these foes or call the God
Of Levi for direction; this man lacks
The wise discretion to suppress the oft
And trifling insurrections of his tribe.
He hails the prophet ere the rousing wail,
Then desperately he pleads with elder priest:
“My father Nun did not prepare his son
To lead a clan of nomads through the sands.
How do I keep cohesion through the strife
And stress of desert life, the ruckus of
This reckless tribe, the clashes of the clan?
The privy God you hold so near and dear
Has scarcely bent my ear, and never in
My mind did I espy a vision of
Our God above who guides me otherwise.
What do I do to tame this wicked crew?”
And heeding all the anxious kin has said,
This pleading sparks the Voice inside his head.
Moses — you must score the Hebrew story
So that generations yet to come will
Know our tribal history, and none will
Question the authority of Yahweh —
Find a scribe with wit to write this fable.
“Who of these twits has tutored knowledge of
The Sinai script, the writing system stole
Away from Egypt’s plagued yet picturesque
Collection of communing hieroglyphs,
The symbols modified by Hebrew scribes
Into a system that the tribe may one
Day call its own and pass along among
The texts of godly heroes long since gone —
Is there a man whose hand can stand the strain
Of the harangue, whose training can explain
The ancient idioms in Moses’ brain,
Whose script will stain the scrolls of old and leave
An epic legacy of me the chief,
The paramount and pestilential priest?”
The youth asserts that he can find the one
To pen the path of Yahweh’s mortal son,
Then deftly dashes through the labyrinth
Of resting tents to fetch the wretch that writes.
While Joshua hunts, his leader has a hunch
The scriven text will keep this raucous bunch
In line — no thought of future fame, his gain
In this endeavor isn’t for his name
To last forever, (yet ironically
It will!) because his simple kind had not
The time to forge the fortune-fearing mind.
His junior in the future certainly
Will feel the presence of the ego in
A head that comes to dread the seering Voice:
The goading gods of Gilgamesh, who long
Before Jehovah’s water war had trashed
The wicked mortal world — they wetted Earth
With hostile surf and seized the sylvan soul
Of colleague and companion, Enkidu;
The deities of Grecian seas who knew
Odysseus’ every move for they communed
Directions to the Trojan champion;
And Vergil had it right when he described
How great Aeneas made his Roman way
With guidance from his prating pantheon.
But Moses’ mind has not capacity
To fret the countless years that lie ahead
Or dread his past iniquities. (thank God!)
He only cares that what he hears from cloud
Or burning bush is carried through — this man
A seeming mystery, but really he
Was lucky with the gift his brainy god
Bestowed on him — he uses visions he
Descries to drive his tribe, his talent much
Abused; and oddly Moses often dreams
He sees a tyrant with his talent train
A racist nation to exterminate
These very people in their future days.
But this does not dismay, for he cares naught
For fate or fear — (or faint finality)
The only driving force behind this fierce
And fervid shepherd-king is God, who from
The Earth’s beginning has protected all,
(Except of course the ones that squall which poured
For forty days destroyed) but nonetheless
Jehovah mostly blessed His heathen tribe
With bloody victories and men who guide
And chide this mob into servility,
And Moses like the ones before implores
His God ere waging war to show the pace
And stage of battle in a dream, a scene,
A clean imagining and not a vague
And cryptic Wraith who, speaking, complicates
His state of mind, confusing him and all
The Semites following pernicious whims
That stem from misconstrued conceptions of
Those visions; his derision of the clan’s
Absurd assumption of his point of view
But merely muddle more their pothered pates
And instigates a sacrifice that he
Must make to subjugate this crooked crew
Of oft disgruntled Jews. His thinking clears
When Joshua’s scrivener appears behind
The junior priest who strove to find this fine
And erudite but youthful Israelite
Whose father was a famous fighter for
The fearless foes of Pharaoh’s slaving state;
This boy named Jacob learned the ways of war
From his most fierce progenitor and sire;
Proficiency in poesy conferred
Upon the scribbler by his mother dear,
An educated slave, a courtier
Of Egypt’s idol adulating sway;
A concubine who had in mind a free
And wanton life, and so she stole away
With one who claimed the Hebrew men might yet
Provide a guide and God to prod her on
Her way, but this paternal trooper’s word
Did not portray the gendered attitude
Preferred by Levi’s herd — she’d rather loose
Her bosom to Anubin troops than reap
Abuse from proud and patriarchal Jews
Who’d just as soon abandon mother, wife,
Or daughter for their own maniacal
Advantage in the wilderness; like Lot
Who’d given up his girls to Sodom’s churls
As sacrifice to save angelic lives
Engendered with a penis though they’d seen
No mortal strife, nor known a mortal wife;
Or Abraham who scammed his spouse as sis
And sibling, saving him the harrying
Of fending off impending proffers of
The Coptic King, thus offering his wife
For marrying outside the family;
(You’d think he’d learn his lesson but again
He offered up his most beloved kin
To salvage his most precious manly skin)
And even God gave man dominion o’er
The woman, like the beast, a feast for male
Depravity, a satiation of
Their hungry hearts and lusty loins — the mate
That God created caused the fall of us,
But God had planned this woeful woman as
A hand and servant for her primal peer.
That knavish slave — did she not know how men
Behave? At least before they raped and sold
Her she had time to teach her soldier son
The art of rhetoric and writing it.
The writer is beset with questions from
The shepherd-muse — “Can you record the truth
As it exudes through me? The plot descends
Impulsively, concocted wholly in
The firmament whence Yahweh’s covenant
’Twas given to the Jews; the views are not
My own — they’re of the One, the only God,
The Guarantor of sod, Displacer of
The local clods. (for ‘love your neighbor’ just
Applies if you’re a member of His tribe)
Can you inscribe this roted anecdote?”
The young reporter carefully constructs
A right retort, for he has heard the bruit
Of this old coot’s acerbity that came
From the absurdity of his arcane
Envisioning and dark diurnal dreams.
“I cannot promise anything except
To document this monumental trip
Exactly as it exoduses from
Your lips — I’ll make no comment of my own
Or force a false conjecture on the facts;
Interpolation and digression are
Atrocious indiscretions of the wise;
The swindling scribes who oft abide a feigned
Hyperbole will suffer for their lies
In Hellish fire for all eternity.”
The wretched writer waits with bated breath —
This frank and candid answer satiates
The tribal master though, and he is bound
And diligent in his attempt to write
(Or right) his hearty Hebrew history.
He first instructs the man who must supplant
Him to procure the sacramental stock,
A goat and ram, says Abraham, both from
The faultless flock; a heifer too, a youth
At three years old; and don’t omit the birds
They’ll split in two and dash against the gold.
He scurries to the most adored demesne,
The fertile plain where all the spotless brutes
Remain until they’re spotted by the blade.
Then Moses takes the warrior’s scoring son
And guides him to the tribe’s most sacred tent,
The tabernacle gorged with God, (and gold)
The charnel of the sacrificial fold,
The spot where claret clots and bowels rot.
That gross arena’s never been unclean;
(Unless you count eviscerated guts
And bloody excrement of sacrament)
It’s only seen the best of beast — the rest
With spotted skin or blemished breast are left
Among the fields to feed the followers
Of God, their imperfections saving them
From Moses’ offering; (ironically
This so-called perfect God created these
Imperfect things that even He despised
Because they weren’t alluring to His eyes)
This fold unmartyred satisfies the pangs
Of hunger that the tribe would surely feel
If not for these ungodly faulted meals.
But in this tent the best are rent and sent
To Heaven, (via smoke of altar fire)
And here the sire admires the manifold
Of gold and silver, pilfered from the knaves
(The neighbors) who so doltishly stood in
His way, but no one subjugates Yahweh!
As Moses voices incantations of
His vile and vicious nation, Jacob spies
With prying eyes the motley scene of those
Obscene and beastly corpses littering
The floor of this unsullied sacred tent.
When in walks Joshua and his henchmen with
A burley bunch of brutes that brand of man
Will smite to satisfy Jehovah’s lust
For blood and guts, his hankering to be
The king whose subjects will kill anything
To prove that they are following the one
And only omnipresent Deity.
The leader pours anointing oil upon
The well-read head of Jacob, tribal scribe,
In whom our God imbibed the gift of print.
(The skill came from his mother’s skull, but all
The great and wonderful accomplishments
We mortals make are credited to that
Which sprung but from the pining pate of man)
It turns his stomach to descry the crime
Committed on the coddled critters slit
And sliced, and thus the bloody God sufficed;
The vestal varmints diced and dashed as He
Commissioned through His man of fancied sleep;
And yet the scribe abides in ritual
That Moses has supplied for times of strife —
This loss of life supposedly prevents
Some future casualty. The brutal rite
Seems vile and trite to him, but being bright
He knows his clout among these louts will grow
When he is shown to have some value to
The fitful crew of Jews with whom he roosts.
And so the sandy sacrifice concludes —
No reason to describe the gruesome two
Whose crude exuberance of death is yet
A match for Yahweh’s love of morient.
Of course they viciously discoursed the blood
That, once removed, suffuses stolen gold,
(and silver too) that priceless metal past
Amassed by foolish foes who had the might
And meddling mettle to so boldly meet
With Levi’s fold now pilfered for the One
Who owns a Heaven full of precious stones.
The arid sand within that tent becomes
A bloody swamp of death — the mire of ire!
Once Moses’ savage service has expired,
The ruddy duo rush the third to aid
Them rouse awake the herd to celebrate
The future state that must be conquered ere
They settle in that fertile Canaan vale,
The lauded loam and dingle that has room
For but a single group of Semite troops.
The canvassed camp, the hallowed Hebrew hive
Arise and cry the painted grave alive.