This extraordinary eleven cycle Exodus Poems transcends place, time, history and myth as we connect to ancient ancestors.

Exodus Poems

by Doug Tanoury

Song of Songs III by Marc Chagall, 1960
from the book Marc Chagall by Francois Le Targat,
published by Ediciones Poligrafa, SA, Barcelona y Madrid, 1987



The Moses Soliloquy

And it began in the wilderness
With a voice calling out to me in the night
Calling me by name from a bramble
For that is all that grows there
It was as if it was consumed in flame
For it was lighting the darkness

And I have come to know the voice
As the Lord I Am who charged me
And laid this mission on me
To lead the tribes of his people Israel
But I was afraid and told him so
To let him find another but he would not

I am changed somehow by this task
I no longer am the man I once was
But somehow I am uplifted
By the tasks the lord has asked
As if I have climbed a lofty mountain
And have left the normal world

I am transformed by what I do
And no longer watch the flocks
In the night and no longer do
The bidding of Pharaoh and his court and
For all the wonders the Lord has done
This change is the most miraculous

For what I am has asked I have done
When his said extend your hand
My hand was extended and
When he said raise your rod
It was raised and Pharaoh and his
Magicians were confounded

As I now am confounded by
The workings of my God
Who rains meat for our pots
And grows bread for our table
And pours water from the dry
Stone of the desert at my command.



A Slaves Life


They say go and I go

They say do this and I do it

They say gather and I gather

They say sow and I sow

For I am but a common slave and

They a cruel and capricious master



W
ho cares nothing if I live or die

For my daughters are like sheep and goats

And my sons like camels and oxen

All my children in the fields

Are bent by this burden

And bear the rod of the taskmaster



And at night by the fires

Amid the smoke from the smoldering pots

I pray to the Lord who is my freedom

And my deliverance

Whose reach is greater than the Nile

And whose bounty flows more freely





Blue & Purple & Scarlet Stuff


And I know this for I have seen the fabric

On the shoulders of kings and their young sons

Cut and stitched and fit and formed

Crafted by the fingers of old women

With poor eyes that must hold the garment

To their noses to see their work



It is the colors of indigo and lapis

Topaz and garnet for I have seen the fabric

In the tunics of Phoenician princes

And in the capes of the captains of the Hittite hoards

The blues of royal hue in linen finely woven

Entwined and twisted



And in the embroidered pomegranates

That rest ripe on the hems of the garments

Of Aaron and his priests as they tend the Arc

Just after sunset under a sky that covers the desert

Like a cloak made with blue and purple

And scarlet stuff





Burnt Offering



And it is with great haste

I come to her from the altar

Fresh from the sacrifice of atonement

Still in priestly robes

Splattered with ramís blood

My face smudged with ashes



When my robes fall away

I wear only the smell of olive oil

And incense before her and

She wears only a perfume

As our scents mingle and our

Fragrances intertwine



And our clothes left lying

In heaps on the floor

Are the skins shed by serpents

And the discarded shells of insects

That are cast off when

They take on new forms





Cherubim Skillfully Worked


And it is the artisans and craftsmen that fashion the

Arc and the altar and all the linens of the tent of meeting

And the finely woven vestments of Aaron and his priests

Those that work with precious stones and metals

Sculpt and shape two Cherubim that looking toward each other

With faces like the sunrise on the sea and wings spread wide

And sheltering forming a canopy over the arc of testimony



And it is art that gives glory to God and the craftsmanís

Hand and the artisan eye that honor Him for these

Are the works and the builders of his dwelling

Among His people Israel and as priests chant prayers

And prophets recite the law and the craftsmen shape

It is the poetís song that rises like a mist on the mountain

In the morning their voices raised aloft on the melody of lute and lyre




Favor In My Sight



They sat that Moses found such favor

That God knew him by name and when they met

It was face to face and when they talked

It was like as two friends



He talked often of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

As if every word spoken between them were craven in stone

And He remembered His promises

As if they were made just today



And I have often wondered

That if I like Moses met the Lord what I would say

But I have come to reflect much more now

On what words He might speak to me



W
ould He recall His talks with Moses

And remember the face of Pharaoh or experience them

As if in present time for tense has no meaning

For that which stands outside of time



For He Led the twelve tribes of Israel

Through the wilderness moments ago

And in the tent of meeting He speaks

To Moses at this moment



And now too in God is parting the curtains

Of blue and purple and scarlet stuff to watch the sun setting

Beyond the mountain and both He and Moses

Marvel at a desert sunset



And I know too that if I met the Lord

Like Moses I would hang on His every word

As if they were raindrops in the desert

And I would whisper only one thing to him



remember me





Up on Sinai




And I have answered His call

Been His prophet and been His slave

His will has been my will

And my mouth a holy tabernacle

For His words



Upon the mountain top

Beyond the thunder and lightning

Above the flames and smoke

God speaks to me in a low whisper

Carried on the slightest breeze



His voice is soft like the

Sound of waves on the Nile at night

And His words hushed like the flutter

Of doveís wings and as quiet as raindrops

Striking the surface of the sea



And I am brought high on Sinai

Upon the mountain top

To hear the Lord speak

With the low notes of music

From a lute and lyre





Molten Calf



This is the god of lawlessness

A god of wantonness

And animal appetites

It a god of body and hunger

Of longing and wanting



That is my comfort

In these wild places and my banner

And standard in the battles

For I have grown weary and restless

In the shadow of this mountain



A god of singing and drinking

Of eating and dancing

A god of lewdness and wild gestures

Of revelry and release

In this desert place



And awaken my heart to the

Worship of the whim and

The adoration of the urge

In a wasteland so barren

In a world empty of God





The Finger Of God



And the two tablets

Scribed with the law and

Written by the finger of God

His word captured in the stone

Were cast down and broken

At the mountainís base



And I am moved

By a message from God

Shattered and in pieces at our feet

Of covenants unkept and

Testaments unmet here

In the shadow of Sinai



And I have not seen Godís face

Only his finger as he wrote

His presence fire on the mountain

A flickering and a flame

That melts an icy heart

In the company of the Lord





The Pharaoh of My Past


I
was enslaved

In the Egypt of you

By one whose heart

Was hard like a brick

And whose will was my burden



And how I have come

To be free is a story of a journey

Through a desert

Across a sea

And up the tallest mountain



I was your slave

And a victim of a will so harsh

It would not bend before

The voice of God

Until He took your son



S
o this song celebrates

And these words now sing

To Pharosís dead son

Who bought my freedom

And freed me from the Egypt of you





The Red Sea Between Us




And something has allowed me

To get from there to here

Some miracle of passage

Some magic that has parted the sea

Between us and carved a dry path

From among the waves and formed

A wall of water on my right

And on my left



And the power of Pharaoh behind me

Is washed away and I Am has delivered me

On this distant shore

My old life fades from memory

Like a dream that is only half-remembered

And seems unreal and somehow

Unattached from me as if I were born anew

This very moment


***
Reprinted by permission of the author
(c) 2001 Doug Tanoury, All Rights Reserved.

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