Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Above the beardline
I stroke the half inch of stubble on my cheek,
and below, the loosening flesh of my throat
is all prickle and fuzz:
half emery board, half peach.

I am an overripe and jowly kiwi fruit,
An incipient but failed Tolstoy, a patriarch
shorn, domesticate, yet run to seed.
No news from the mountain here.

And anyway, I'm Aaron, not Moses.
The one who stayed behind, the one
who looked after the little ones
and tried to make everyone happy.

Well, sure, I said, I can make you
a calf, if you're sure that's what you want.
And so I made it as beautifully as I knew how,
and put the love of real calves in it,
Their awkward plunging for the teat,
Their great dark worried eyes.

And I said to them, “Israel, this is your God,
which brought you out of the land of Egypt.”
Not because it was, you understand.
It was their earrings and bracelets:
they knew that as well as I. But
it was what they wanted me to say.

Ah, well, you know the story.
My brother came home in a temper,
and I told a wicked lie and said
that when I threw the gold in the fire
it just came out that way: a calf. He
burnt it and ground it to a powder
and mixed it up with water --
he was kind of nuts --
and made everybody drink some.

My sin, the way he tells it,
was in representing God at all, and
in letting the people pray to it,
letting them make offerings.

Well. It's a long time ago;
least said soonest mended.
But that's not what I asked forgiveness for
when I prayed in my own tent.

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