My first love was the poetry of Ecclesiastes. Simpler than silence, exacting as music, possibly a little nasty, the Preacher's voice entered the classroom and tested everything. Numbed by adult threats and promises, by words that meant more and less than what they said, I was faced with a song that had no plot, no narrative, and pierced its own assumptions. He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. A stubborn man was chanting from death, confining himself to what can be seen and touched.
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern: Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
Like many loves, Ecclesiastes seemed cold and arbitrary. But when daily life resumed, when we children were ordered to cut out paper bunny rabbits with square-tip plastic scissors, I had a secret. I had glimpsed a language more powerful than order, more intimate than my own emotions.
--Originally published in Crossroads, Spring 1998.