Verily, Moses was nurtured
in the household of the pharaoh
in the temples of his learned advisors
under the protection of Pharoah’s daughter.
The Lord made of him a tool
a strong staff to chasten the wayward
a voice of rebuke for the children of Israel
a worthy enemy of the mighty army of Egypt.
I am a man, Moses said
to himself when he heard voices.
I don’t want to be a player in a plan.
I want to flirt with girls and hunt with hawks.
Thou shalt chastise the master
of slaves and gather the slaves unto me.
Thou shalt be father and mother to the Israelites
through pestilence, patient desert and bitter homecoming.
What are you talking about?
The world is peaceful in the rising
and the falling of the river under the eye
of the sun, in the boat of the beetle, said Moses.
In his gut rumbled the heavens.
In his stomach and lungs rose a storm.
In the hearts of Moses and Pharoah ascended
a contention between the mighty of heaven and earth.
God says you have to let us go,
Moses blurted in the pharoah’s court.
Go where? Asked the king of north and south.
Back to where we came from, to the land of the Lord God.
For a season, for a year, war
was fought in the palace, in the land
between the earthly and the magical powers
of the red and white crowns and this Jewish boy.
River turned blood and locusts
devoured the harvest and storehouse.
All were hungry and suffered not only
the rich Egyptians but the Lord’s lowly laborers.
The world groaned, the sun stuck,
the ground was pained, the sky black.
What’s the point? Moses uttered in his mind,
staff held high, standing firm as he was commanded.
The Lord God of the promise
the unnameable of the promised land
struck and took the firstborn of the Egyptians
while Israelite babies were left untouched by Death.
In grief of family and nation
the pharoah bowed head and screamed
Out, and the children of Abraham gathered
at the edge of the Delta looking across the silty waters.
They grumbled at their freedom
There ain’t nothing over there but sand.
Moses heard the calls of his youth’s marshland
and closed his eyes as if to say he could not understand.
The birth of the Bible in his ear
‘Thou shalt’ becoming a tongue of its own
the root of three thousand years of rummaging
through inscrutible passages and spartan luxuries.
What Moses heard most of us
do not until we have become worthless.
Be submissive even slavish and do not think
you know the moment or the century’s purpose.
Damn the waters, damn the army
breathing down our necks in their chariots,
damn the desert we will wander in for forty winters
damn the brain so cluttered up with better judgments.
And Moses led the people across
into the wilderness to be fed by manna
up to the mountain where only he clambered
up to hear the windy voice and see the fiery panorama
of desperation, of kingdom,
of willfulness, of prophecy, of being
holed up in caves and locked up in ghettos.
Damn them all, he said, and God replied singing,
In the flood and in the dry months
I am there, I am in the ibis and the croc
in the tablet’s law and in the stumbling block
I am in the hunter’s blood and in the speared deer.
I am just an old man
a tool like this staff I lean on
I will stay and not ask questions
Moses said, looking weakly out toward
where Palestine was waiting
to be won and occupied where Persia
and Babylon and Rome and so many other
worldly powers would invade and chasten the children.
In the rocky hills and washed out
canyons of the wild men chasing wells
Moses lived a few more nomadic and ascetic
years trying to not recall his adolescence on the Nile where
In the flood and in the dry months
God is there in the ibis and in the crocodile
in the morning’s law and in the hunter’s blood
in the evening’s star and in all the antelope that escape.