A Priest’s Lament


Starting from the outside,
the labyrinth’s path moves closer,
further, closer, as it takes a poet
deviously toward the center.

Mosaic patterns, partly broken
by frost, perpetually bloom there.
Gray, mossed-stones line the path—
they frame the wanderer’s flower.

We wandered that desert
for forty years. All we had
for communication were
specially designed tents

built from detailed plans—
each folding floorboard
and floating nail exact—
a cellular plan from God.

That lonely God longed for
our calls, the return of a gift
we could not understand.
We just turned on each other

instead. We hoarded words
into locked arks as though
we owned them or understood
what they meant. We didn’t.

We meant to know more. Ever since,
with poor reception, a limited data plan,
we still pretend we can call God
whenever we want. We pray

for every child shot in school
as though words could unlock
such cruelty. We pray that we
will not long be held responsible.

I long for the days before
those instructions were given,
before we built the tabernacle,
before we transformed the tent

to stone on top of a mountain,
before we thought we knew
what God wanted us to do,
before we decided we were priests.

Poem of separation (kodesh, kodesh, kodesh)


A wandering God longs for us
from outside a forty-year labyrinth,
folding time, returning space, locked
into receiving words that cannot be given.

We thought we knew.

On the seventh day, God rested.
We have not seen or heard
Creation since. Our language
overwhelms the world.

We thought we knew.

—Michael Dickel

This two-poem sequence was written at Lake Jackson, Tallahassee, Florida, during Michael‘s participation in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Residency Program 2018, in the days following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass killings in Parkland, Florida. The 100 Thousand Poets for Change organization has planned poetry events as gun violence protests for peace and memorials for Parkland. More information with a schedule can be found here.


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