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Two Contemporary Poets

Spring, 2004

Ioanna Warwick

The Twenty-Second Name of God

is invoked most often: Oy-oy-oy.
It rolls like history and time,
this rhythmic holocaust of yods.
As for the vowels,
each age fills in the blanks.

Yod is a master letter,
the emblem of I AM -
the blossom-fuse of flame
from which the alphabet
ignited its sacred shapes.

Kabbalist sages say
God created the world
with the letters of His manifold name -
starting with yod of love and pain,
the yod of astonished truth.

Yod stands for Hand,
the hand that builds
and the hand that destroys.
Heh stands for Window,
through which we see

the trees of life lit with birds -
and then, one day, undulant dance
of flames approaching our house.
Or, in the mirror, the final flames
coming to dance in the house of our body.

The twenty-second name of the divine
is a primeval chant,
a prehistoric liturgy when we
feel we are turning back into clay.
Oy-oy-oy! we exclaim,

three yods,
three drops of fire
that burn the surface away:
a fragment of the universal speech,
before the Tower of Babel.

Vav is the Nail, the Nail
that drives the lesson in.
Man aspires and God laughs,
we confess in an oy-oy-oy moment,
wailing over the best-laid plans,

pried open to the mystery.
In the trenches of life, no atheists,
only hand reaching for Hand.
God breaks our hearts
so we can create ourselves.