in this season of unlikely miracles, we might enjoy the occasion to add to our concepts of spirituality:
Unlike the mirroring eyes, the pom pom heart,
I’m opaque, an oaf with no taste for driven individuation.
I’m blamed a lot these days,
I dumb down your cheekbones,
I assuage your nerves, calmed with my myelin sheathes,
your cells are founded upon my lipids.
You fiddle with my endomorphic math,
but fail to control my dense valence.
As an iconoclast, I refuse your templates,
I’m the concept and the fact: I’m fat,
brother to the obese sun, I conserve heat.
I set at my own thermostat.
Mountain in my own Tibet,
not a bone or organ sullies my pure content.
I am that I am. Look at
you anorectic girls who want to be plants,
Giacomettis who cheat life of its most voluptuous
responses. Worship me. I heat your houses,
butter your bread, lube this global rock, lighten it up.
Holy, I anoint your heads with oil.
TWICE WOODS HEBREW
The antique woods, if they spoke,
would speak Hebrew, not Greek or Latin,
the language of luna moths or stones,
but guttural sounds that issue from the bronchial branches.
For that matter, the trees, in their winter state,
even look like Hebrew, since against the sky
their twigs ramify as letters printed in a prayer book:
broken Tet, twisted Lamed, the Shin candelabrum,
Betty Boop’s Gimel-like shoes And so on down the gnarly alphabet.
Leafless, the words keep their bound counsel,
reticent growths almost like code,
slow to reveal their meaning
So hard to find your place in them:
filigree of letters in the Torah scroll,
when read aloud weirdly rise and fall,
trip trap of trop, Billy Goats Gruff, in these dense offshoots.
We have only one season to speak.
When the sun returns, and the leaves
at last express themselves, the trees no longer
seem Hebrew. In this conversion to light, we tongue
another God, where the words are
foppish and lush, romance us in Spanish or Italian.
From a cantorial family, five generations back,
I sing the Hebrew syllables I read transliterated,
am in awe when my own alt, chants the Baruch
in that minor-keyed music of trees. Grown in intricate
sorrow, these arboreal ventriloquists throw their voices
through me. A force draws my chest voice like water
studded with minerals and light flecks,
sucks it upward against gravity
step by cellular step, rung round
by bark as one mounts spiral stairs,
the Statue of Liberty. At the same time,
my voice is pulled down through the litter of leaves,
into soil. At once head to foot,
even farther, I resonate, a reverse Orpheus,
reach both ways, nets of roots and twigs
like needle points stitch sky and dirt.
Hebrew warms me twice, in my longing for
the blue fire at earth’s magnetic core,
and the distant white radiance
Both poems are from Deborah Gorlin’s forthcoming book, Life of the Garment, which was just awarded the May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize.