“Our very life depends on continuous acts of beginning. But these beginnings are out of our hands; they decide themselves.
Beginning precedes us, creates us. There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning.
More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could."
John O’Donohue


20 June 2016

Summer Solstice

It bears some explaining now,
how to survive the longest day of the year.
But first, the acceptance:
You will have to be diurnal.
You didn't ask for it, I know,
this merciless day-dwelling,
the milked and measured time of men.
And then the moon
your mother
demanding all night
that you listen to her stories,
write them down even
with insomniac hands.
She pulls at the strings she wove
at the base of your heart
until tissue meets bone,
threatening to break out altogether.
There is no rest.
This tilt of the earth is not for you.

But since you are here,
more woman than wolf,
you should know something
about how to meet the hours.

The morning is easy.
You can rise as early as you wish.
The earlier it is, the more dream-secrets
she whispers in your ear
to sustain you.
And if you hurry, without rushing,
you can feel the urgent, tender arms
of perfect love reaching for you
before they travel west
to hover as mist
over the slow-waking mountains.

You give yourself to the tending,
to the plans of yesterday
not quite finished.
There is movement in the late morning hours,
flow and fulfillment.

The noon hour is meant to blaze
with a single fierce intention.
You claim the peak,
abrupt and craggy apex though it may be.

You must sleep away the afternoon.
Your ancestors are so brutally far now,
and you are truly, utterly alone.
We are together in that.
Let restless dreams
carry you to the twilight.
The ache of estrangement
will loose itself.

At five o'clock, the river begins
to rage again,
and it is your rebirth
into adulthood.
You are reacquainted with yourself
as caretaker of your own boundlessness.
Now is the time to write.
It is the time to sit with a beloved
and imagine, in delicious detail,
how it will all be made new.
It is the time to co-conspire.
It is the time to linger
with lips and fingers and breath on his skin,
not for the heat
but for the cool assurance.
If he is no longer,
you remember,
and it is almost the same.

The next three hours
are the truth of your life.
They will show what work
you are willing to do,
how earnestly you will
seek the horizon,
whether you will fall in love again
with desire itself
for another year.
Use the weight of your body
to lean in,
drag the fear along behind you
if you cannot set it down.
Your mother is rising to call you
into the now haven of night.

"Mixing Up the Bible: New Theologies and Theodicies in Post-Shoah Israeli Poetry" (Study Prospectus)

Abel killed Cain and Moses entered
the Promised Land and the children of Israel stayed in the Wilderness.
I ride in Ezekiel’s chariot,
and Ezekiel himself dances like Miriam the prophetess
in the Valley of Dry Bones.
Sodom and Gomorrah are booming
and Lot’s wife has turned into a pillar of sugar and honey
and David king of Israel is alive and well.
I so want
to mix up the Bible.
~Yehuda Amichai, “I Want to Mix Up the Bible” (trans. Robert Alter)

(Sample poem excerpts in translation at: http://prezi.com/wdo8n1dx92_r/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share)

Background and Intentions
Amidst the degrees and the language preparation and the travel and the writing and reading of poetry, the experience that grounds me most in this research is my general practice (since childhood) of operating in the world as a contrarian. It is mythic lore in my childhood home, the extent of my stubbornness, and an ongoing constructive friction in my professional life. At its heart, this doctoral study is a contrarian project. It seeks to run counter to staid Christian perspectives on the Hebrew Bible and Jewish devotion, as well as counter to the theopolitical determinism of the State of Israel. It is intended to resist didactic methods of constructing and disseminating biblical theology in favor of the more sidelong efforts of poets and artists. Finally, it is aimed at resisting the common scholarly view that non-statist Israeli poetry of the post-WWII period is at the least antitheological and more commonly atheistic.
            The constructive goal of this project is to understand the theological implications of the work of Biblical citation, allusion, and appropriation in some representative poets of this era. It is my instinct that doing so will provide new theological tools to counter the inherited supersessionism of even the most progressive Christian churches. This outcome, I expect, will in part have to do with demonstrating to Christian readers how the Bible is read, internalized, and interpreted in Jewish community through the lens of sociopolitical history, and in part with dislodging rigid Christian views of the theologies and theodicies of the Hebrew Bible. As a cultural vehicle, poetry (and the literary criticism that accompanies its study in the academy) offers expansive opportunities for both transformations. It is my intention to engage in close study of these materials as detailed below for their own sake, and use the period following the completion of my dissertation to do the work of autotranslation—bringing versions of this work into explicit practice in my denomination (Disciples of Christ) and other faith communities, faith-rooted community organizing efforts, and seminary education.
            I begin this study with six years of masters’ level work in theology, Christian history, biblical languages, and ministry preparation. I have completed a Master of Theological Studies degree at Harvard Divinity School, with a focus on ancient Christianity, and will complete my Master of Divinity degree at Pacific School of Religion this December. My language study has included Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Coptic, Aramaic, and Spanish. I am a recently commissioned minister in the Disciples of Christ and a member of the ministry team at Tapestry Ministries in Berkeley. This congregation is unique in its focus on the incorporation of the severely disabled into active and visible ministry, its embrace of gender variance and racial diversity, and its commitment to horizontal, team-based leadership. As I complete this degree, I will be continuing in my weekly ministerial duties—preaching, teaching bible study, providing pastoral care, organizing church events, and structuring and scripting liturgy. I anticipate completing full ordination following doctoral coursework in 2018.
            I am also a working poet, a social justice activist, a professional fundraiser and executive director in the field of urban economics, and a single mother of two. Each of these roles has informed my commitment to this area of study. My love of poetry and translation will no doubt be the stoke that keeps the fire of this work alight. My simultaneous work, for nearly 20 years, with grassroots community organizing and with senior international real estate executives has attuned me in a unique way to the dynamics of financial and social power. My children, who have been raised observing in both Christian and Jewish religious communities, provide a continual truing of the theological leaps we take in interreligious dialogue. The fact that they are at once entirely comfortable as loving agents in a multireligious world and uncertain of how to reconcile theological realities in an interreligious context reminds me daily of the importance of providing creative conceptual tools for cross-tradition theological dialogue.  
                                                            
Research Statement—Booth/Colomb Formulation
I am studying the appearance of citations, allusions, and appropriations of Hebrew Bible scriptures in post-Shoah poets in the statehood period of Israel because I want to find out how these uses re-work the theological concepts of the Bible in light of multinational trauma in order to help my reader understand new and more liberating approaches to biblical hermeneutics, particularly for progressive Christians in need of an alternative to inherited supersessionism.
The working title for my project is “Mixing Up the Bible: New Theologies and Theodicies in Post-Shoah Israeli Poetry.” A few choices made in constructing this title are worth noting at the outset. First, the concept of “mixing up the Bible” comes from the work of Yehuda Amichai, the poet whose work inspired this study. The passage quoted at the start of this paper demonstrates one sense in which Amichai intends to “mix up the Bible” with poetic voice, as he explores alternative narratives that arise from engaging with the Bible as a living text. 
            The term “Shoah” has been chosen over the more common “Holocaust” to designate the Jewish genocide. In the case of both terms, capitalization implies the specificity of the event, separating it in common parlance from other genocidal activities. The use of “Shoah” is a response to problematic theological implications of “Holocaust.” As Zev Garber and Bruce Zuckerman have demonstrated,[1] the concept of holocaust originates from the narrative of the binding of Isaac (akedah) and suggests a necessary near-total sacrifice and compliance with the will of God. “Shoah” on the other hand indicates a “darkness” or a “catastrophe,” which does not import sacrificial redemption into a description of a yet-to-be-fully-understood historical event. It is also meaningful to note that this term places Jewish historical memory in a more mutually sympathetic relationship with the Palestinian “Nakba” (catastrophe) of 1948, which signals the largest single expulsion of Palestinians from the land of what is now the state of Israel.  
            The choice to confine my primary study to the works of poets within the state of Israel has not come without internal conflict. I am deeply concerned about engaging in an Israel-centric academic study given the current state of Israeli-Palestinian relations and the likelihood of a dramatically more hawkish American foreign policy in the Middle East near term. My spiritual and ethical commitments remain with the dispossessed and vulnerable in the present tense, even while I struggle to understand the formation and sustenance of the militarized Israeli state in the wake of the near-extermination of the European Jewish population. It has been, at various times, my intention to expand this study into contemporaneous Arabic literature in Palestinian territories and refugee communities. Increasingly, however, I am seeing the need to confine my language and cultural studies to the Hebrew and Yiddish that are more proximate language acquisition goals for me. It is my intention, however, to center on the voices on a spectrum of dissent against the Israeli state as a colonial power, incorporating Arabic works in translation as they emerge in the field of study.
            Finally, it is important to note that I am separating out the work of “theology” (which the modifier “new” implies is largely constructive theology in this setting) from the work of “theodicy” (which wrestles with God’s relationship to evil in the created world). I intend to maintain these as separate fields of inquiry, rather than seeing theodicy as a subset of theology. Using this approach leaves room for poets who wish to engage one without the other—who, in the period following genocide, must tread carefully in the acceptance or deconstruction of religious belief. At any given moment, one can have a relatively well-formed theology without a solid theodicy, and vice-versa. I want to honor these steps of resistance and embrace of faith in the wake of the Shoah for what they have to teach us about biblical stories.

Audience/Evidence/Theory
The primary audience for this doctoral project will be academics and students in the fields of biblical studies, Jewish studies, biblical theology, comparative literature, and—to a much lesser extent and more aspirationally—homiletics. With the exception of Jewish Studies, these fields are largely dominated by Christian scholars, ministers, and students, and it is precisely into this echo chamber that I hope the project will speak. While I intend my study to be deeply rooted in the linguistic and cultural norms of Jewish studies, it will be my goal to make the study relevant to Christian thinkers in a position to put its outcomes to work.
            The primary “data” for the project will be the appearance of citations, allusions, and appropriations of scripture in the subject body of literature. A substantial part of the initial effort will be seeking out these “data” in the original language texts, attending to the many subtleties of reference often lost in translation and differences in biblical literacy. Having defined a relatively limited but representative body of literature, I will gather these extracted sources and investigate them with various interdisciplinary tools.
            The central evaluative tool will be comparative literature, which brings with it literary criticism, translation theory, critical and postcolonial theory, queer and feminist theory, and a variety of other approaches. It will be essential, however, to maintain a focus on the biblical theology at play in literary interpretation in this body of work—not a broadly accepted move. Using these two strategies, I will attempt to activate and highlight the theological work being done in these text, not necessarily to demand recognition from the largely secular field of comparative literature, but to promote the value I believe these texts have for contemporary progressive biblical theology.

Artists of Interest
My primary interest in the statehood age of Israeli literature is to engage those poets operating outside of the nationalist narrative, but whose work still enjoys significant prominence in the literary historiography of the period. Statehood in Israel presumes both nationalist narratives and a kind of appropriated theological orthodoxy. Anti- or non-statist literature of the period then can be seen to resist either or both, in varying degrees. At the same time, I hope to become conversant in works that represent the significant influence of statist lyric poetry. The following poets will form the initial body of literature for study:
·      Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000): Widely understood as Israel’s greatest and most prolific modern poet. Immigrated to Mandate Palestine from Germany in the early 1930’s. First published in 1955.
·      Esther Raab (1894-1981): Born in Palestine, and lived in the emerging state with some brief exceptions. First published in 1930. Generally viewed as a pastoral poet whose engagement with the Jewish homeland implicitly supports the Israeli state.
·      Yona Wallach (1944-1985): Born and died (at a young age, due to breast cancer) in and around Tel Aviv. First published in the 1960s. Her poetry offers a strong feminist, sex-positive voice and an ethic of resistance to Israeli state determinism.
·      Dahlia Ravitkovitch (1936-2005): Born in Mandate Palestine to Russian immigrant parents. First published in the 1950’s. Her work invokes ritual and scriptural elements of Jewish life in the context of her commitment to peace activism and reconciliation.
·      Natan Zach (1930-   ): Immigrated from Berlin to Mandate Palestine as a young child. Has exercised substantial impact on Hebrew Modernist poetry as an editor, translator, writer, and critic. Controversial figure who has theorized an arguably racist cultural rift between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewry.
·      Natan Yonatan (1923-2004): Born in Ukraine, but immigrated to Mandate Palestine as a young child. Represents the lyric, state-promoting voice in this period. His poems have often been set to music and used for national occasions.
Additional poets will be incorporated as the study proceeds. I will not attempt to offer a balance between voices of state-support and voices of resistance, but instead to engage those poets whose approaches to scripture depart from the Bible and religious experience as cultural artifacts and instead offer constructive theological concepts. I do not exclude atheism, antitheology, or agnosticism from this field of constructive theology, particularly in the experimental mode of Modernist poetry.
Three particularly helpful anthologies are:
·      Burnshaw, Stanley, et. al., eds. The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself, Second Edition (2003)
·      Glazer, Myra, ed. Burning Air and Clear Mind: Contemporary Israeli Women Poets (1981)
·      Kaufman, Shirley, et. al., eds. The Defiant Muse: Hebrew Feminist Poems from Antiquity (1999).
Finally, the study will also include seminal works of literary fiction in, or in reference to, this period in the history of the Israeli state (particularly the works of Amos Oz), and works of visual and performance art that further the analysis of the artist’s relationship to statehood.

Disciplines Review

Biblical Theology
It is significant that I have chosen to align with biblical theology as a central discipline rather than biblical studies—which currently enjoys greater legitimacy in both secular and seminary-based higher academics. While contemporary scholars offer significant exceptions, biblical theology as a discipline can be seen as antiquated based on the burdensome assumptions of scriptural inerrancy, divine provenance, and the supersession of the Hebrew scriptures in light of the New Testament. It is, however, precisely the continuation of these practices that I plan to explore, with the aim of challenging them through the lens of contemporary literary endeavors rather than biblical studies methodologies.
            Outdated efforts to study and teach biblical theology remain largely inaccessible or uninteresting to non-Christian readers, because the effort of the field is to provide a foundation for homiletics, pastoral leadership, and seminary education that presumes faith-rootedness. Its origins date back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries, with the works of the early church fathers, so that the field remains active primarily in orthodox communities.
The contemporary historical critical project of biblical studies, however, often aims too far toward the complete demystification of scripture and remains largely inaccessible to Christian faith communities. While some of the resources of contemporary biblical hermeneutics that have emerged from the field will be of value in this project, the aims of my work are quite distinct from the field of biblical criticism.

Comparative Literature
            Comparative literature is a well-established contemporary field of study that will provide the essential components of my methodological approach to my doctoral study. The practice of comparative literary study has its origins in transnational literary community in 19th Century Europe. It remains a vital field of study, though often considered too methodologically broad to provide a critical mass of direct academic dialogue. Its natural concerns with sociology, anthropology, history, literature, translation, religious studies, international relations, etc. create a wide field for topical focus.
While many contemporary comparatists focus on transnational literary criticism—and thus the concern of intercultural communication, translation practices, power relations, etc.—my focus will be primarily the comparison of literary culture across time and political experience (particularly the Shoah, the Jewish diaspora, and the creation of the state of Israel). There is, no doubt, a comparative concern in the relationship between Israeli (Hebrew, Yiddish) and Palestinian/Arabic sources in the post-war period in land increasingly being claimed as Israeli territory. However, the central question of the project is how the literary intent of the bible is renewed, reinterpreted, reappropriated, and undone in later literary sources. 

Additional Fields of Inquiry/Sources of Methodology
The project will require exploration of several other disciplinary fields, including: 
·      translation studies (biblical Hebrew, modern Hebrew, modern Arabic, Aramaic, Yiddish, and English)
·      critical theory (feminist, postcolonial, queer, and literary theory)
·      border studies (diaspora and the nature of modern-contemporary Israel/Palestine)
·      Jewish studies (hermeneutic traditions, literature in society, Jewish mysticism, secularization and post-secularism)
·      Middle Eastern studies (modern and contemporary political concerns)
I will engage these additional fields as sources of alternate perspectives and critique, particularly for where they point to sites of marginalization and erasure, to the political and social implications of my work, and to the translation of my work into contemporary religious practice communities. Each of these fields is itself by nature interdisciplinary, calling on a variety of methodologies. Most notable are the foundations of linguistics, political theory, political science, religious studies, history, psychology, gender studies, and textual studies.
Translation studies and critical theory are in large part embodied in the practice of comparative literature, and will not represent a significant departure from that primary field (though each is dramatically broad in its own bibliographic and conceptual reach). Jewish studies and Middle Eastern studies are unavoidable as fields of consultation/critique as I pursue study in this literary field.
I am particularly interested in the work to be done with queer theory and queer theology in my area of study. One of the foundational realities of the Israeli state is a return, in the wake of the Shoah, to a cultural hyper-masculinity, an equation of national sovereignty with virility. One sees the theme throughout the statehood period (as well as in contemporary history and historiography), understood by many Jewish studies scholars as a reaction against anti-Semitic tropes that feminized Jewish men. Gender play and linguistic and theological queering are used widely in the poetic works that comprise this study. Some work has been done to explore secular queer theory in this context, but the activation of queer theology remains to be done (again, largely due to the presumed antitheology or secularism of this body of work.)
Border studies has consolidated quite recently as an academic field focused on the formations of physical and effective political boundaries in international power relations. It simultaneously investigates both practical social and political circumstances and the metaphorical significance of border-making and -breaking. It is a particularly meaningful field for my work given the dramatic impact of post-war nation-state delineation during the period of my study, as well as the contemporary concern of the expansion of the Israeli state and Palestinian sovereignty.
There is the potential for my work to benefit the field of border studies with an investigation of the theological and rhetorical effort at play in the construction of boundaries. The theological foundations of the history of Jewish sequestration in the West and contemporary practices of Palestinian containment are explored more frequently in literary responses to social circumstances than in political ones. This study has the potential to free some of those underutilized literary resources.

Professional Goals
Multivocationality has been the reigning logic of my entire working life, in part due to financial necessity and in part due to the significant divergence of my interests. I have embarked on this doctoral study with the intention to remain multivocational for the foreseeable future, although it is my hope that the fields of my interest will begin to converge more naturally over time. Ideally, I would like to find a meaningful but not exclusive place in academic dialogue and teaching in undergraduate or seminary settings. I have mostly ruled out the option of seeking employment solely as an academic in a larger research institution, both because I am much more committed to teaching than to academic production and because I hope to continue to engage in other efforts, including active part-time ministry and housing equity activism.

Terra Incognita
The most critical area for my immediate growth as a scholar in this field is in the mastery of Hebrew and Yiddish. This is not exactly “terra incognita” but rather a recognition of the need for a near native-speaking mastery of the languages so as to be highly attuned to subtle biblical references and their cultural implications.



[1] Garber, Zev and Bruce Zuckerman. “Why Do We Call the Holocaust “The Holocaust”? An Inquiry into the Psychology of Labels,” Modern Judaism, v 9 n 2 (May 1989), pp. 197-211.

18 September 2016: First Christian Church, San Jose

The Wait

Yesterday was Hildegard’s feast day.
I was 18 years old when I met her
on the lips of a lover,  
under a ceiling of impossibly close stars
in a meadow in Pennsylvania.
'With my mouth,'
God says,
Hildegard wrote,
he whispered,
'I kiss my own creation,
every image I have made out of the earth’s clay.

In the same year of her life,
her feet kissed the threshold
of the convent.
Imagine: finding tenderness
on earth and in heaven
at once.

Not that it comes without question.
Her pen poured out the questions that rose to meet God's answers.
It came to pass, when I was 42 years and 7 months old,
that the heavens were opened
and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance
flowed through my entire brain.
And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame,
not burning but warming
...and suddenly I understood
the meaning of the expositions of the books.
But although I heard and saw these things,
because of doubt and low opinion of myself
and because of the diverse opinions of men,
I refused for a long time the call to write. 

And we also ask: 
How long should we withhold salvation?
How long should we hand out
the curse of human approval?

We cannot live in a world that is not our own,
in a world that is interpreted for us by others.
An interpreted world is not a home.
Part of the terror is to take back our own listening,
to use our own voices, to see our own light.

It took 833 years after her death
for a committee of men in inherited regalia,
at a resplendent table carved by the clandestine dreams
of lesser men
and no women at all,
to declare Hildegard
a Doctor of souls.

It is, I dare say,
too long to wait
to claim this always already sanctified world
as our home.
I dare say
today is the day of your voice,
today is the day of your blessedness,
today is the day that rises to meet you
with endless green promise.  

4 June 2016

Refrain

It has been the same refrain
with almost all my lovers,
the same words whispered
in the tangle of twoness,
this strange formula of fatalistic devotion.
I don't think I told you
that you were in company.

"You will be the end of me."

The words address a stranger.
I search my reflection for anything
more dangerous than unshakable youth,
desire and tears equally ready,
my flesh more pulsing heart
than fortress.
No one there is peddling extinction.

To be sure, there are the wild thoughts
disordering the dark libraries of my mind.
Not so uncommon.
And besides, they demand ink,
not blood.

So who, exactly, will be the end of whom?

And what is that end anyway
except tremorous beginning,
asking all of the questions again,
the gentle flaying of coming clean
when you thought the game
was to layer compromise on compromise
and forge a life
from the religion of consequences?

Eliot said to hold fast to the end,
if you are fortunate enough to find it
still breathing.
The beginning is there,
and the end again--
home.

But it is not advice
easily taken,
or often.

23 May 2016

Doctrine

What you left me,
ultimately,
is the doctrine of irreplaceability.

It feels like the place
where your hair meets the skin
the skin of your neck,
rising with touch.
It sounds like the holy quiet
of night giving way to dawn.

In a dream, I place you,
an anachronism
in my grandfather's garden.
After decades of failed attempts,
I am suddenly, strangely
able to grow things.
I can watch the sprout of a pepper plant
and know how light and air
will preach it into bearing.
I can feel the delicate spines
on the skin of a ripening tomato
and see love and letting go
open a window
on the crowded earth
for it to arrive.
Our four hands share
the prophecy of dirt,
the late summer drought
yielding to fruit.

You have tethered me
to the setting sun,
its measured crossing
of the dark side of the earth.
And I go willingly,
unwillingly.

14 May 2016


Trinity

My brother is an artist,
though I am not sure he remembers.

I picture him drawing in charcoal years ago: 
strong, thick lines to delineate an image, 
which he then rubbed off, 
black fingers and muddled page, 
to create the contours 
of an actual, breathing body. 
It is a thing I will never understand, 
this movement of dust into flesh. 
And it is not what I do with words. 

I turn flesh into dust, 
and I rearrange the grains
until they speak some strange new word.  
He resurrected, 
I deconstructed. 
That was always our way. 

And now you, walking back,  
breathing your warmth into what was last
and will be. 
I am not sure which gesture it is.

What was it I imagined otherwise?
Likely some idea,
immaculate at its sharp edges. 

Creator's intent, 
Sustainer's history. 
And at the apex, 
this wound, not healable, 
and not meant to be. 
  

10 May 2016: PSR Palestine Immersion Chapel Reflection

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up to a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 

When it comes to the Transfiguration, I begin in a foreign place: the pine forests of Georgia in my childhood. Where, in a certain season, the cicadas abandon their skins by the hundreds on the bark of the trees. There are transfigured bugs somewhere. But all you see are the pearl-pale skeletons of bodyshapes clinging.

In love with all things fragile, I wanted to collect them. But each one I touched crumbled. Though I tried every delicate procedure, their no-longer-feet still held fast with unseeable insect tenacity and their ghostly bodies were nearly nothing, disintegrating with the slightest pinch. 

I want to say something about what it is that makes a place--however small--or a time--however brief--holy. But it takes more voices than I have. We could say something about permanence and impermanence, certainty and conjecture. The places and times that wound and heal us. The nowhere and everywhere, suspended time and fleeting time. Finding our way and losing it all at once. 

On Mount Tabor, there are two churches. You would think there was only the one: with mosaic tents for Moses and Elijah and a grand sanctuary for Jesus built on the triumph and treasure of the apostolic assembly. Its doors await the Rolls Royce, the cameras, the rose-bedecked bride. But there is another: ragged quarter walls and damp, dark earth. Perhaps the site is more ancient, more true. Perhaps not. But it is certainly more inviting for the prayers of the dispossessed--a place to imagine the promise of a restored body. Fresh soil calls out, asking to be dug up for a new order, an unvisited wholeness. 

The sunset falls from the crest of Tabor over fertile checkered farmlands claimed a hundred times over. If you squint, you can see the desperate effort to scrawl lines of imaginary safety. I am photographed taking a photograph, the sunset multiplied in the image, as if it could belong to more than one people. 

I did manage to extract a cicada shell once, as best I could tell with all of its microscopic borders intact. It is in a plexiglass box in a mildewed chest somewhere in one of a dozen storage sites in Georgia. No one will ever rock in silent prayer over it as the women do in seclusion at Abraham's tomb. And I do not pray to it today, but to the creatures I could hear but never see emerging into the woods, the ones who search the living earth and air for what is next.