The Book of Voices

Biblical Microfictions by Joseph Zitt


(Context: Genesis 19:36)

By day, my grandfather sits at his cave, watching men watch the sheep who graze above the ruins. By night, he sits in the field and drinks, as his head rests against the pillar of salt, as he wraps his arms around it and tries to dance.

I cannot read the shape the salt once had, worn smooth now by the summer rains. But my grandfather’s tears have worn new paths, their water carving texts of memory as their pools join their salt with the pillar’s salt to state that here no life can ever grow again.

My mother drinks and cries with her sister, standing by the pillar (which they call their mother), though only by day, when my grandfather cannot be there. They watch me climb there in the trees, playing with my cousin (whom they sometimes call my brother).

I do not know my father. I do not have a father. And I no longer ask my mother who my father was, since the question sends her from the room, away from me, to the place by the pillar where she drinks and cries.

But the men in the field point at me and laugh. And they laugh at my mother as she cries with my sister, and tell tales of my grandfather when they think we cannot hear. And they say that he would have given them up to save the pair of strangers, the strangers who then saved them from the men of the city, from the death of the city, from the quakes and fires that turned the city into dust. But they whisper that when all was gone to salt and dust, they all began to drink, and then they went to sleep.

And I do not understand the rest of the tales of whispering and mocking laughter. But I do know that they speak of shame as they point to me, that my name, my presence, are emblems of shame, and that my family and I will bear this shame for longer than memory can say.

And I cannot place a name to what I feel. But I see my grandfather there at night, always far away from me but wanting to be near. And as his heart fails slowly, I hear him crying in the night, and though he never speaks my name, I feel his cries call out to me. But my heart can never answer, as I hide deep in my cradle of fire, sorrow, whispers, salt, and shame.

(Next: Aaron.)


April 14, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. […] the texts on the first three characters, Moab, Aaron, and Sihon are already online. Abraham is up […]

    Pingback by Joseph Zitt :: The Book of Voices | April 14, 2007 | Reply

  2. Beginning this, I had no idea who Moab was. I knew that there was a tribe of that name, but had forgotten that the person from whom they were descended was an actual character in the Bible. (I must once have known this — in my preteen years in the National Bible Contest, I could rattle off any genealogy you wanted or identify who said any line of text to who for three books of the Bible that we were tested on that year, resulting in my having won the Northeast U.S. region three years running.)

    Digging for the name, I discovered that he was said to be the son of Lot and Lot’s daughter. (And I had remembered their encounter, but not that they she had a son by him.) Following that, and looking back through Lot’s story led me to write this first of these texts.

    Comment by bookofvoices | May 4, 2007 | Reply

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