Poetica Magazine

Poetica Magazine

Silence at Sinai

by Paul Z. Panish



This I saw:
              We were standing, bathed in song
singing words to praise that sacred scroll,
the Torah scroll (down through Sinai’s flame,
and down that mountain’s quaking agony,
and sung through dozens of centuries)
                                                       we sang
of clinging to this tree of life, this scroll,
and someone, honored to lift it to its place,
its sacred place,
                        slipped.
                                     The scroll fell,
struck the floor with the sound of a thing that falls—
a stone, a block.
                        The singing stopped.
                                                       We stood,
silent, stunned, and only then—lost,
drowned in shocked silence—only then,
our song mute—then—only then,
dumb with an ancient dread, we were able to pray.
Only then—no song, no chant, no text—
we prayed, not knowing we prayed.
                                                      Mute with grief,
mute with dread—that silence took its power
from Sinai’s howling cosmic trumpet blast
folded within the barely heard thud
of the scroll striking the floor.

Our soul dwells
in a still place deep below our mountain,
silent below that Sinai of the heart,
not to be roused by comfort, songs of praise,
or sweetly chanted text.
                                    The sting and shock
of collapse, in a breathless moment, bursts awake
that cave below the heart where the soul waits.

Now this I saw:
                       A sacred thing tumbled
into the gray day, and the soundless cry,
transcendent, burst awake the stupid world,
and then we could pray.
All the rest is talk.