Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Joshua 22: In Writing

And when you say No
I see my own face
disappear, like the waters
between us have washed me
away,  a wave rolling
over my eye,
my mouth and its call
carried away on the current
your turned back a wall
encircling, and all I can do is
stare downward till
I vanish, leaving
only an echo
you don't want to hear.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Joshua: Chapter 22


What runs between us
can you bridge this river
of time?


[For full chapter, click here
This is a chapter that closes a circle--and an era--and inaugurates a new sense of history and nationhood.
After all the other tribes have "approached" to receive their allotment, Joshua at last "calls" the Eastern tribes: Reuben, Gad, and half of Mennasseh. These were the first of the tribes to swear obedience to Joshua, promising to be the shock troops that precede their brothers to battle. Now, at last, they are told that they can return home, tying together the beginning of the inheritance, inaugurated by Moses, with the rest of the inheritance, completed by Joshua. 
Yet just as the circle closes, completing the story of the inheritance of the Land at the national center in Shilo, things fall apart. Upon returning to the banks of the Jordan--the liminal river that so defined Joshua's rise to leadership--the Eastern tribes build an altar. This seemingly innocent action is seen as a declaration of succession, an attempt to establish a rival national center. 
In response, the nation acts as a single unit, sending a delegation of "one prince of a father's house, for all the tribes of Israel." They have learned well the lessons of history. Recalling the aftermath of the sin of Ahan, they declare that rebellion and succesion are not private issues. The nation is judged as a single unit. "You rebel today against God, and tomorrow he will be wrath on the whole congregation of Israel." Heading the delegation is Pinhas, the man who speared (literally) the response to "the iniquity of Peor", and with his action stopped the plague that ripped through the nation as a whole. 
The Eastern tribes respond that mutuality runs both ways. If their actions will bring down punishment on the rest of the nation, the rest of the nation's possible rejection of their children will cause them to "cease fearing the Lord."  In a situation where God judge's the nation as a whole, the nation's rejection of a part will bar access to God.
The altar, rather than being a rejection of the central altar at Shilo becomes an assertion of its importance, a linkage of the periphery to the center,] 


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Joshua 21: In Writing

We wheel
spokes leading in
a funnel that drops
down, down, down
where roads unfurl endlessly
winding between each house, each gate
and a street lies beneath each street
a city in a city
a yoke in a shell
waiting to splatter
the binder holding color together


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Joshua: Chapter 21



Give from what you were given
Priests and murderers scattered 
cities within your cities
wanderers within


[For full chapter, click here
After the setting aside of the cities of refuge comes the final allotment: the giving of the cities to the Levites. These two sets of cities are intimately and mysteriously related. Both must be "given" (the leitwort t'n, repeated again and again in this chapter) as a gift from the tribes from within the inheritance that they were "given." Both are scattered throughout the entire country, buried within the tribes. Both are presented together: if in Numbers, the move from Levite cities to cities of slayers, here we move from the city of the slayer to the cities of the Levites. Finally, all the cities of refuge are actually Levite cities--a fact that is emphasized again and again by the refrain "city of refuge for the slayer.."
We need to know that these cities do not only offer refuge--they offer refuge specifically to "killers", who will be free to return home from their exile with the "death of the High Priest from the tribe of Levi.
Which returns us to the initial pronouncement that Levi would have no true inheritance: when Jacob, back in Genesis, curses Levi and Shimon's "swords," saying that they will be "scattered throughout Israel." Shechem, where Levi and Shimon used their swords here tellingly becomes a "city of refuge for the slayer." Levi's "Inheritance" is God, and so he remains unrooted, linked to the wandering Mishkan. But Levi is also a slayer, marked like the wandering Cain, offering refuge to other slayers that might still be redeemed. 
The cities of the Levites, with the cities of refuge scattered within them, doorways ready to admit fugitives who beg entrance, represent the continued desert encampment within the settled land--the spaces for the unsettled wanderers who must be given temporary place.] 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Joshua 20: In Writing

Trace a line from here to there
from where you started
to the doorway where you stop
beg entrance
within the walls
within the streets
within the home.
Grant me place.
Swallow me down your long long tongue
hold me safe in your gullet
digest me in your juices
till death on more death sets me free.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Joshua: Chapter 20


Trace the line to the gateway, and back
into the city, into the door of your own home
give place to the exile
the man out of place


[For full chapter click here
The growing focus on cities climaxes here, with the command to re-appoint the Cities of Refuge dedicated by Moses, adding now three additional cities on the western side of the Jordan. If the inheritance of the Land is "given" by God, these cities of refuge are "given" (20: 2) by the people, who "give" a place to the refugee involuntary murderer. These are human places within the expansive space of the Land--and they are specifically "cities" (the leitword of this chapter, defined by human boundaries, with a "gate" manned by elders and overseen by a court.
If the previous accounts of the cities of refuge (Numbers 35, focused on the question of the man-slaughterers relative guilt, this account focuses on the passage into and out of the city--continuing the Book of Joshua's focus on transitional spaces of entrance. The manslaughterer must approach the liminal gate, until he is "gathered into the city" and "given a place to sit (y'sh'v). His return (sh'v) from exile is also defined through the city, the wordplay of sh'v / sh'v highlighting the parallel: he is to return to "his own city, the city he left."
 The setting aside of the cities is a watershed. Back in Deuteronomy, Moses defined taking responsibility for cities of refuge as the moment when the land truly becomes "yours." It is the sign of a completed conquest. In dedicating these cities, Joshua is indicating that "God has expanded the boundaries" of Israel's territory. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Joshua 19: In Writing

Walk, measure, name.
What do I see when I see you
turn, twist, hit, rise, drop,
leave and then return?
 Sarid, I call you, remnant of a dream.
Sheva, satiation. Water welling. Where I swear, trust me,
what is born, what will be born, what God will bear
Molada, be my moledet,  birthplace I fled, birthplace
that calls.
Be  body, be belly, a place I can sleep,
the navel I came from, to which I am linked.
House of bread, house of sun,
springs of red and white,
water sharp as steel, sweet as fruit.
Mishal, what I ask for. Amiad.
Broad of shoulder, full of breath,
An ever receding sky, afek, afek.
Yavne’el, God will build. El’Tolad.
Marala, Timnah, Idalah.Adama. I say, land, earth. Adam.

Over there, at the hight, Ramah.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Joshua: Chapter 19


Count the cities
and  what sourounds
to weave an inheritance 
your plot of land


[For full chapter, click here
This chapter continues allotment, the "lot / destiny" (goral) "falling" in an order that moves from the children of Leah, to those of the maidservant, Bilhaa and Zilpa. 
There is a fundmanetal difference between the inheritence of Simeon, and the allotments that came before. No trancing of a border that rises, falls, goes out and come in like a living thing. Instead, Simeon is swallowed "in the midst of the inheritence of Judah," and his inheritence consists of a list of cities "and the fields around these cities. This is the inheritence of the tribe of the Children of Simeon." Simeon's inheritence seems closer to that of Levi--"who does not inherit within the land", but is rather granted cities and fields--than to that of the tribes whose allotment preceded his. The early history of the family of Israel in Genesis which so impacted the inheritence of Judah and Joseph continues to resonate in this  return to the land, as Jacob's final curse of Levi and Simeon is expressed in their scattered inheritence.
This focus on cities continued to play out in the rest of the allotments , which all close with an enumeration of cities and villige which make up "the inheritence of the tribe." Cities, and the uber-cities-- fortresses--are at the center. The "writing" of the landscape by the surveyers who set up to walk and divide the land  has transformed it to a human space, with a focus on its  acculteration, the shaping to human needs. 
The focus on cities and kings, that has accompanied this book since its opening, here seeps into the until-now nomadic Children of Israel. In thedenumoix, the Children of Israel grant Joshua his inheritence: a single city of his very own]. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Joshua 18: In Writing

Feel the earth:
crumble of soil between your toes
jab of rock against your heel
grit rubbing against your skin.

Watch the trail that stretches away behind you
Shadowy hillocks,
five toed valleys
marking you passgae
from here to there
from where you came to where you go
gaze beyond the horizon

Looking out
the land is filmed
over with the letters of your name.
textured with your skin's veins. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Joshua: Chapter 18


Held in place on both sides
write yourslef into the land
with your feet


[For full chapter, click here
"How long will you be slack in going to possess the land that God, the Lord of your fathers, has given you?" Joshua demands, when the nation finally "assembles" to recreate a national center. Ostensobly, this is a criticsm that reflects back on Joshua himslef--why has he been slack in completing the allotment that he began?
He continues, "Appoint for yourself three men for each tribe, and I will send them, and they shall rise, and walk through the land, and write it according to their lot, and come to me." Inheritence, it seems, is not passive. Like Abraham, the father to whom the land was promised, the tribes must "rise and walk" (hithalkh--a reflexive form of the verb, iimplying a self-reinforced walking, becoming walkers). And--as in Michel de Certeau "Walking in the City"--this walking becomes a kind of  language, the appointed men "writing" the land. The inherited land is not nuetral territory, but a textual landscape.
Judah's inheritence begins with Caleb's personal connection to Hebron, and the gifting of his daughter to the one who could conquer Kiryat Sefer (lit. "The City of the Book"); Joseph's inheritence holds within it all the painful history of favoritism and usurpation, as well as Jacob's choice of Ephraim. Now the other tribes must find their own viceral connection to the personal tract of land that "God, the Lord of your fathers, has given to you." Only then can the land be their own lot.]