Saturday, November 25, 2017

Joshua 12: In Writing

There was day, and then there was night.
Opened my eyes to the baby’s cries, one
Picked her up, one
Made coffee, one, and drank it, one
Tried to put her down. When she screamed, picked her up again, one.
Washed the dishes, one
Swept the floor, one,
Sat down to work, one
Wrote one page, one,
Wrote one poem, one
Picked up the baby, one
Took her for a walk, one
Noticed the sun, one
Saw the light glint through the rain, one
Warmed up a sweet potato, one
Made rice, once
Fed the baby, one
Washed her face and hands, one
Rubbed down the hi-chair, one
Read her a book, one,
Sang Mr. Sun, one
Sang Rise and Shine, one
Turned on the boiler, one
Filled up the tub, one
Rubbed her tummy with soap, one,
Blew four bubbles, one
Wrapped her in a towel, one
Put on a diaper, one
Dressed her in a stretchy, one
Read the Going to Bed book, one
Prepare a bottle with two scoops of Materna, one
Covered her with a blanket, one
Made coffee, one
Got up to calm the baby, one
Found the pacifier, one
Helped her lie back down, one
Rubbed her back, one
Put milk in the coffee, one.
Gave her a pacifier, one
Drank a cold sip, one

Alogether 40 acts. 
How do you account for a day?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Joshua: Chapter 12

In the end
look back
and tie it together
with song

[For full chapter, click here
In the last chapter, we begin with sepcific battles that wind into years of warfare; there is a sense of unfolding chaos, the time that passes until the "country rests from war."
This chapter, by contrast, offers a retrospective view, looking back at those blurred years of war in order to place them in context and give them form.. The nameless cities are now enumerated by name, in a repetative, rythmic litany that places all in order. 
Only now, looking back, can the seperate conquests of Joshua and Moses be seen as one, as succesive steps in a single process: "these are the kings whom the Childre of Israel smote, and posessed their land beyond the Jordon, toward the rising sun..." "these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the Children of Israel smote beyond the Jordan westward...for a possesion according to their devisions." Now,  the focus on kingship tht characterizes the Book of Joshua reaches backward to redefine Moses' victories in Deuteronomy.
True, Joshua is more directly associated with warfare, while Moses remains the "servant of God"; true, Moses gave the land as "inheritence", while the westward lands remains to be divided. But for the first time, teacher and student are completly interlinked, working together to acheive the posessions of the two sides of the Jordan.]

Joshua 11: In Writing

Like ripples, spreading over the water
widening, softening, smudging
there will come a time
when names can't be remembered
when faces blur
when one battle runs into another
one day, one hill, one plane, one river
all slide into an amorphous
pool of many days

Joshua: Chapter 11

Aftermath and the ripples
spraeding in time
spreading in space

[For full chapter, click here
"And it was, when Yavin, the king of Hatzor, heard..." This chapter continues directly from the last. As news of Joshua's victories spread, so does the war, as more kings join in to the original five. Once again, God assures Joshua of victory (Joshua is no longer the terrified new leader he was, and no longer needs to be told not to be "dismayed.") Once again, Joshua "surprises" the enemy encampment, and decimates the army that is arrayed against him.  There is a greater emphases on the destruction that follows the victory, this time with a focus on the inhabitatnts. Only one city is burned, like Jericho and Ai, but all the living are deprived of their "breath / soul" (neshama). 

On the one hand, this is repeatedly justified as fulfilling the commandment given by God to Moses; on the other hand, the chapter ends by emphasizing that none of the inhabitants agreed to make peace, other than the Gibonites. In an echo of Egypt and Pharoah, God "hardens their heart, to make battle against Israel, that they might be utterly destroyed." Would Joshua have made peace if they had not come in battle? The question is left hanging.

What stands out is the mood from specificity to generality. What begins as a specific battle againts four kings mentioned by name, becomes a generalized description of a years-long battle that spreads from the north down to the south--and indeed, at the end we find out that the war has lasted "many years."

The initial battles described in the book have the intensity of archetypes: Jericho and miracles; Ai as the move to strategy; the five kings as the first synethesis of human and divine action. Now we deal with the rippling after effcts of these intial shocks. The battles run one into the other, over a period of many years, until the land "rests from war."] 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Joshua 10: In Writing

To stop the sun
amber fire
washing over me

to hold the moon
a gleaming apple
in my hand

to see the day stretch
like a drop of dew
at the tip of night

and see myself

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Joshua: Chapter 10

The day man spoke
And God listened--
the mouth that binds.

[For full chapter, click here
How binding are the oaths that are entered based on deception, commitments that are not based on facts?
This chapter continues to explore the aftermath of the transformation of the second battle with Ai, in which human action moves to the forfront. If in the previous chapter, the movement to a human-centered model opens the door to deception,  here, the covenant with the Ginonites is put to the test. It is an oath based on a human-centric vision of reality, in which Joshua does not "ask the mouth of God"--and so is tricked by the very wiles he used. 
Here, Joshua decides to "let his hand slacken" from the Gibonites, and he honors his word to the upmost. In commiting fully to the human-based reality, in making in binding, Joshua is able to bind God Himself with words: "And there was no day before it or after it, in which God hearkened to the voice of man."
Honering the partial and problematic human covenant revives the covenant between God and Israel. The first time, there is a fusion between human and divine action. In contrast to the battle with Jericho, it is Joshua who opens the battle. As in the case of Ai, the battle begins with tactics and subterfuge, with Joshua "surprising them" by marching through the night. Yet in contrast to the battle of Ai, this time God pitches in by sending hail on the fleeing Emorites, in a direct echo of the Exodus story. Human and divine action fuse, to create a perfect victory.
Joshua emerges stregthened by this new partnership. No longer must he be continously propped up by God's reassurances of "do not fear do not be dismayed." Now, he can act as the comfortor to the people, echoing God's words to them "do not fear and do not be dismayed, be strong and take courage" (10:25) .
The turn to human action and language here becomes a source of growth rather than of failure.]   

Joshua 9: In Writing

Are you far
or are you within?

Touch the tattered shoe
the crumbling food
switch clothes again and again.

No voice within.
Weave a web of words
to wrap me round

in voice.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Joshua: Chapter 9

Open your mouth
bind yourself with your ongue
in a world of tattered objects

[For full  chapter, click here

This chapter begins to unpack  some of the implications of the movement from miracles to tactics that took place in the previous chapter.  If in the aftermath of Jericho, the children of Israel venerated Joshua, here there is an underlying tension between the "man of Israel" and the leadership. The local inhabitants also no longer tremble before Joshua. Rather than "melting" in fear as they hear of the supernatural victories, they unite in a federation to fight tactics with tactics. 

The Gibonites take a differnt approach, and rather than battleing Israel head-on, use the same subterfuge and cunning that Joshua used against Ai--this time against him. "Why did you beguile us?" Joshua cries. not undertsanding that deception and play has become an essential part of the world in which he plays, the battles that he fights. 

In a world defined by human action rather than the all-encompaing reality of God's presence--"for the Land is Mine"--there are many objects, and shadows, but few clear cut realities. The leaders of Israel do not "ask the mouth of God", but rather look to the witness of objects as they "take of their provisions" (9: 14). We move from the previous chapter's focus on the "hand" of human action, to the "mouth" that defines the human reality--regardless of the facts. 

If in the battle of Jericho, Israel was told to remain silent, here, after the battle of Ai, human speech becomes definitive. Joshua and the tribal leaders are bound by their word, despite the fact that their oath was given on the basis of a lie.  "We cannot do anything to them"--the human hand bound by the human oath.

There is a subtle counterpoint here to the story of Jericho, which also ends with the commitment to keep an oath: the scouts search out Rahab, and save her and her family as promised. Here, the battle of Ai ends with the commitment to spare the Gibonitesis as promised. Yet in Jericho, the promise to Rahab was bound by faithfulness: she had to complete her part of the bargain, and not give the spies away. Here, the promise was given under deception. At the closing of the story of Jericho, Rahab is accepted within the encampment, and she comes to dwell "within Israel."; the Gibonites, by contrast, remain in a strange liminal state, intimate outsiders who remain forever apart, yet serve within God's sanctuary, The bonds created arbitrarily by human language are not the full equivallent of bonds rooted in reality.]

Joshua 8: In Writing

Circle round to
spy the back,
search for crevices 
between the bricks of the walls
between the bowels of the earth.

The hours slurp by
like a snail slithering. 
Crouch in wait
fire against your face--
close and not close
you predator, 
ready to pounce

Hold tight to the past
a burden on your back
each time echoing the first--

Raise it, clutched like a spear--

even life can be a knife
time sharpened to a dull gleam

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Joshua: Chapter 8

Learn to lie.
Learn to trap.
Learn to circle round from the back,
weapon clenched in upraised hand.

[For full chapter, click here
With the exorcism of Ahan, the worse seems to have passed. The Children of Israel are no longer infected with the contigion of herem; God once more speaks as comforter rather than in "fierce anger," telling Joshua "do not fear, and do not be lowered." Yet even though God speaks as he did "at the first" (one of the key phrases of this chapter), something fundamental has changed.

From a world of miracles and open revelation, we move to a world of tactics. There is a huge chasm between the capture of Jericho, and the destruction of the Ai. The fall of Jericho does not require warfate in the usual sense of the word. The warriors circle silently, doing nothing. On the seventh day, after seven circles, the walls of the city fall away--just as on the Jubilee year of seven-seven, all human ownership falls away. God's presence is palpable, and His central command is to restrict human action: "do not open your mouth." And after the victory, the command not to try to approparite this victory: all spoils are to be herem to God. 

In Ai, by contrast, God acts as a tachtician. He does not provide victory--only the information that can allow Israel to win by their own means. Yehoshua, under the direction of God, plans a sophisticated ambush that takes advantage of the Ai's own over-confidence (an echo of Israel's over-confidence in the previous chapter). The mistakes and failures "of the first" are used to Israel's own advantage here, as the backup (two?) ambush parties attack the undefended city, leaving the main force to turn around and wipe out the war party. The leitwort  of this chapter is "hand", emphasizing the role of human action: if in Jericho, the inhabitants "hearts" melted, here, the warriors of Ai don't have a "hand." Emphasing the change is Joshua's hands, which remain upraised trhoughout the battle--an echo of Moses' upraised hands in the battle against Amalek.  Yet in contrast to Moses' empty hands, upraised to heaven, Joshua's hands hold up a spear, emphasizing the importance of tachtics and weapons. 

The violation of the Herem moves us out of the world of divine Precense and into the human realm . The spoils now belong to the people rather than God.
 The chapter ends with an enactment of the covenanat at mount Gerizim and Eival that Moses commanded before his death--a covenant that emphasizes the human role in recording the Torah. It is unclea if the stones here are the same stones taken from the Jordan. The ambigity of whether this is a new covenant or a reitification emphasies the transformation: having changed the framework of the relationship between God and Israel, the covenant must be changed as well. ]