--“R. Joseph learnt: ... both the tablets and the fragments of the tablets were deposited in the ark.”– BT Menachot 99a
The broken tablets were also carried in an ark.
In so far as they represented everything shattered,
everything lost, they were the law of broken things,
the leaf torn from the stem in a storm, a cheek touched
in fondness once but now the name forgotten.
How they must have rumbled, clattered on the way
even carried so carefully through the waste land,
how they must have rattled around until the pieces
broke into pieces, the edges softened
crumbling, dust collected at the bottom of the ark
ghosts of old letters, old laws. In so far
as a law broken is still remembered
these laws were obeyed. And in so far as memory
preserves the pattern of broken things,
these bits of stone were preserved
through many journeys and ruined days
even, they say, into the promised land.
Copyright © 2003 Rodger Kamenetz. This poem was published in The Lowercase Jew (Northwestern University Press, 2003). Used with permission of the author.