By: Danielle Selber
for my first son
“But what was here BEFORE?”
My poor little theologist, scientist, contrarian
eyes watering at the edges,
asking me of creation and godliness.
“Nothing”, I try to explain,
“chaos and void, which in the Torah means” --
He isn’t having it.
How to describe absentia
so unbounded it grows edges
where the finite is pliant and spry?
That an empty expanse full of nothing but potential
is the very place from which we were born?
“Like a black hole”, I try,
glancing up at his solar system mobile
our fingerprints in cotton candy clay
bobbing without wind.
“How it’s so deep and black that no one can see inside,”
I conclude. Perplexed, he squints.
Tell it to your children,
the bedtime blessing declares each night
as I tuck my sweet son into dinosaur sheets;
on the doorposts of your home, as you go about your day!
Everywhere, always, for eternity,
the omnipresent command to transmit this unwieldy corpus
not just the brass but the rich satin and lithe tulle
to babble through the untranslatable
to make it look easy
to make it make sense.
“Like atoms”, I grasp.
“How they are a part of you, and me, and that chair,
but we can’t see them
but they make up everything”.
His eyes catch as they scan the room
seeing God for the first time
in his paper airplane, that pile of laundry
deconstructing them into primordial shards
as synapses fire and fuse.
If the earth lies fallow it
isn’t because I didn’t give it enough water
I gave in faith, on credit, for
With eager hands I took to the ground,
arranged my optimism in
acrobatic cross sections,
plowed blue limbs deep into my dirt,
siphoned veins headlong into overflowing plant beds
so they would never want for anything.
It’s the promise of spring that sustained me.
Like a corpse with a heart ripped clean
I am hallowed out
caked with mineral, oozing dust
hot rich ruby turned leaden syrup
languishing just below ashen skin
suspended in the briny deep.
I counted on the land
to fill the empty places in me
to bloom, against all odds,
amidst plight and famine and drought and storms and a once-in-a-hundred year flood.
I want my bounty now.
If the earth is percolating,
saving its overflow for
next year, seven years, another lifetime,
then earth and sun be damned.
I have no patience for divine design.
The prayer for revealed good comes to mind
as I lob dust heavenward, backwards
as if salt.
I am too plain for rebellion I burst
cold with unease the seams
a soft, plodding knee unraveling
This is me at war
of little use salt-laced sweat
without the trappings of regalia, drenched
I have earned
the meat and brawn or the courage of a thousand
air thick with gunpowder I inhale, I ask for more
this is the best of me
You have no recruits So much to save and
no heroes to pull no rescuers?
How can that be? Leave me to it.
I will question Me and only me
I will unlace
I am no leader just a body
heaving chest gasping breath
encased in king’s armor this throbbing heart
I am unfit, just Blood and veins
reliable, like you say salt and dirt
I am not the one that saves you.
I shiver In sunshine
in cotton frothy air I am sheathed
spooled up in tangles washed with grass and soil
these are the things I have to give to you.
Danielle Selber (she/her) is a matchmaker in Philadelphia, where her masters in Jewish Studies led to her storied profession. She writes about love and other sacred things. Danielle lives in Philadelphia with her partner and their three kids. Though her freelance work is out in the world in many forms, she is unpublished as an individual poet.
*Contrapuntal poetry involves interweaving or combining two or more poems to create a new poem. For this contrapuntal, read the left and right columns independently as individual poems, and then read all the words from left to right, as if the separating white space is not there, to find a third poem.