Richard Schiffman (bio)

The word for “word” in modern Hebrew, is “tebah.”
It is the same word that is used for “ark” in the Bible.
“Noah” means “to rest in.” There are also words
for “poet” and “flood,” but we won’t talk about them,
because the poets are drowning too.
They cannot rest in their fine words
any more than you can.
Still, we sail off, we sail off in such frail arks.
What else can we do with our words
but set them down like planks, and fasten them together
by some aching joinery of the heart into an ark
where we stow, two by two, everything worth saving.
Still, there are no words for this vessel, for this journey,
for these miraculous creatures.
Or, rather, there are just words. Just words. The poets
know this, the poets who fashioned Hebrew, who hewed it
from the bloody lumber of inarticulateness.
Somehow, they hobbled together an ark, set sail
for a shore that did not yet exist. There is a word for this
Possible / Impossible Shore. It is the one word in Hebrew
that is never spoken.

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