Arts & Culture

POEM: Isaiah Interviewed: An Excerpt

Isaiah Interviewed: An Excerpt Did I see the throne before the royal funeral or afterwards? I guess I never really saw the throne in my vision. The folds of the gown obscured the sapphire. If indeed it was sapphire. I … Read More

By / June 19, 2008

Isaiah Interviewed: An Excerpt

Did I see the throne before

the royal funeral or afterwards?

I guess I never really saw

the throne in my vision. The folds of the gown

obscured the sapphire. If indeed

it was sapphire. I just assumed, I guess.

Moses himself had seen the sapphire

at Horeb. The violet folds fell limply,

out of nowhere, brushed by the wings

of the chanting creatures, rustling,

like the weeds in Hinnom Valley at dusk.

I'm certain that it was close to Uzziah's death.

The secluded leper king had long obsessed me.

His reign had been so just, so prosperous,

so strong. The bilious priests puffed up

transparent in their delight as they assured us

that the king had been punished for usurping

their ritual role. God forgive me,

but no God of mine would be praised

for anointing such priests! Yet I couldn't

be sure that they were wrong, and…if

the king could be stricken for one misstep

after reigning for forty glorious years,

what chance did I have to be spared?

Thus, my panic when I heard them

chanting kadosh. They fluttered like mutant

butterflies. Holy, holy, holy,

as in Holy of Holies, as in "Do not touch,"

as in "Enter at your own peril." Holy

as in "Purify yourselves before entering,"

as in "The whole world is filled

with God's glory," and there is no escape.

I so wanted to run away

as the seraph approached, hot coal in hand,

but in a dream, as in life,

you are captive to your own terror.

Thank God that I could not flee! My life,

such as it has been, rests

on the voice in that vision, purging my guilt,

cleansing me into a vehicle for the divine word.

The whole world is filled with compassion,

I learned, as well as judgment.

God's messengers are not flawless;

they simply are willing.

I thank you, King Uzziah. If

you had not ceded your throne in guilt,

I may never have overcome my own.