Academic journal article Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought

Self-Portrait as Burnt Offering

Academic journal article Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought

Self-Portrait as Burnt Offering

Article excerpt

The prophet says:

I have earned a right to the voice of prophecy.

I have suffered and seen the future

and suffered by the seeing.

I am neither a prophet nor

much good at making things up as I go.

I speak in sensible tones.

I observe the present moment.

I record the moment's events.

I review the record and say,

Well, I suppose that is what happened.

I've learned this about memory: the fact that

I can't trust it doesn't mean I should foreswear it.

The same is true of weather forecasts and prayer.

Early on I discovered an elemental preference:

the story I shy from all water and earth,

the one that intrigues me air and fire.

Jehovah, angry god of an angry desert, watched

smoke ascend to heaven. In that desert

the firstborn child had to be offered

as a sacrifice, or a sacrifice made in its place.

The second child you got to keep.

Smoke is Jehovah's offering, water

his weapon. He killed first by f lood.

Movement starts from the center.

Smoke ascends, water falls. In

my desert and the desert of my forebears

our offering to God is

water: sweat spilled digging

reservoirs and irrigation canals,

the water f lowing in them.

My ancestors vowed to make the desert blossom.

Prosperity became an offering but not a sacrifice,

the unretainable thing God demands you keep.

The prophets of landscape say:

our dams will outlast the water they hold. …

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