an offering to the most high

Emil Nolde, “Dance Around the Golden Calf”

while the two men sat on the mountaintop
chiseling commandments in stone
the people poured out their fears
gleaming like pure gold from the altar
of their surrendered desires
they cried tomorrow shall be a festival
to the most high
then offering up their wildest hopes
their desperate dreams dancing they
shouted out hallels until at last
they came into the heart of their liberation
and faced the blinding truth of their commitment
when moses came down and saw
the people wheeling and whirling round
like sacred scrolls unfurling
he shattered the dusty tablets
at the foot of the mountain
and joined in the dance.

(Exodus 32:1-5)

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7 Comments on “an offering to the most high”

  1. That is a most interesting and thought provoking version of that passage. Lots of food for thought. Thank you.

  2. Lori says:

    This is all a mistranslation of the text. It was actually a golden caffeine, a kind of irresistable latte.

  3. Sallie Gratch says:

    I love it!

  4. bodysherpa says:

    i prefer your version of the story, brant. joyous and roomy.

  5. Julie Parson Nesbitt says:

    Another beautiful poem interpreting Moses and the tablets is “The Old Man is Like Moses” by the Spanish poet Vicente Aleixandre. Here is an excerpt: “Because like Moses, he dies. / Not with the useless tablets and the chisel and the lightning up in the mountains / but with the words broken on the ground, his hair / on fire, his ears singed by the terrifying words. / And the breath is still in his eyes and the spark in his lungs / and his mouth full of light.”

    • Gwenan says:

      Julie, I tried to find this whole poem, but it doesn’t seem to be available online. Do you have it?

      • Julie Parson Nesbitt says:

        I have it in an anthology that is probably out of print. I’ll make a copy and drop it by for you.


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