I chant, in a wheat-field, the psalms
of David, in their original, shepherding, tongue:
his lips adulterous among breasts, but bound
by oath to the monogamy of carefully harped
meaning in song. Words on the page
shine like black olives in rain,
swell like persimmons, sway like pomegranates,
in voices down the cinnamon-mixed-with-salt
of the centuries. Their phrases ripen even
when pages are ripped out, shat on, scattered
as bleeding mattresses under raped women.
The words say, “We are that we are:
to try to hope by, whatever happens.”
Inarticulate flames once licked them away,
wagging as furiously as rumours in an age
when rumours themselves are only rumoured.
Armies are always on the march; planets
orbit unerringly; buildings explode;
missiles, laser beams, hurled
stones, fall like the weather man’s
frequently predicted hail. Yet here, still:
a prayer book in my hands, lilacs
in spring, women’s dresses shining
with dew in the morning. Whatever was sung,
even centuries ago, was intended forever.
Day by day, a singer grows
around these words, the latest ring in the trunk
of a Tree of Song. Baritones who budded
before him circle, closer and closer,
around a heart-wood that rises, looking
for any light, sap lilting upwards.
The words won’t decide what happens to us,
only that we can sing, whatever does.