But God was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but God was not in the fire…
—I Kings 19:11-12
All sound has a half-life.
Out loud. Half loud. Half gone. Half gone again.
Its decay is calculus slipping toward zero.
Too muted to hear, but too remembered, too—ashen
white noise haunts long after the flames
have gone. It’s something to shovel, capture footprints in, or choke
upon. You rake them with the underbelly of your hand replaying
their heat—so unlike the fire bush, now, with its languish
of particulate grit lying like a carcass of potash and creosote—
and with a finger outline the serifs and tails of God’s acetylene
voice across a carbon tableau. Weep. And weeping carve:
The god of napalm lies here.
loops and whorls gathering in pyroclastic ligatures,
like the slur of newsprint on fingertips.
Standstill. When a god flames
out, standstill. Expect headlines
but no obit. Ask: what’s expected of the prophet? Deny.
for that. Don’t forget to doubt.
Embrace: vatic, infinite, impossible, pure nothing and bleak? Cry.
Then cry. This is your Sinai,
and what is signified in its lampblack
silence is dialectic whatever it is—a half between:
a map’s folds unfolding, a mountaintop in the midriff
of a sandpaper desert and the obligatory
You Are Here even if wafer-thin, even if poised
on the narrow of an echo, and as inextinguishable as a still, small voice.
First published in the Fall/Winter issue of Nimrod International Journal (2012)
Also, anthologized in the book The Burden of Light: Poems on Illness and Loss, edited by Tanya Chernov (2014)