Poetry: Counting the Omer by J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall crystallizes here a dark passion on the bud of existential doubt—his poem, “Counting the Omer,” is a deeply familiar why God in the face of inexplicable tragedy, turning softly on Wall’s fresh imagery and sincere ambivalence.


Counting the Omer

To count the omer is to number days
like sheaves of grain that God cannot collect,
mourning each evening’s dawn with memories
of students slaughtered on altars built for doves,
one myth following another: Exodus,
then thirty-four days of shiva (until
the Pentecost, until Sinai, some say);
on the forty-third, shrapnel drove nails
through the faces of Manchester girls;
and on the morning of the fiftieth
I found drying in the dying grass
by my front door, its lintels never bathed
in the god-blood of some Egyptian lamb,
two fetuses, stillborn as the covenant,
translucent, purpling, their eyes still plasticed
shut, blind to the revealed world, to everything
except revelation itself, the sight
(beyond prophecy, beyond imagination)
of God’s face, the gaping void of its absence—
oblivion, too, is a kind of knowledge
and I left them to it, unburied, species
unknown—we all look alike in the womb—
summer fruit forgotten in the sun
which scavengers do not tear at in the night,
which lie sainted, unblemished and odorless,
pristine as on the day they were not born.



J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall’s writing has appeared on Ordinary Times, First Thoughts, and is forthcoming in Jewish Fiction .Net. He has also published academic articles on William Faulkner and Jewish poetry and writes about the Chicago Cubs for Baseball Prospectus Wrigleyville.  Born in Louisville, Kentucky, he studied Classics and fiction writing at Northwestern University and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.  In the remainder of his time, he studies Yiddish and watches too much baseball.

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