Bereshit bara elohim et
ha-shamayim v’et ha-eretz.

—Gen. 1, 1

My black-lettered Hebrew Bible, dense
and doughty as a cobble. The Bible in Hebrew—irreducible!
Yet at the first verse, a hair-thin net of cracks
appears, each crack a vast highway, and wildly we leap
onto this first, this universal, cobble, BERESHIT. “In-the-beginning.”
Or maybe, “In-the-beginning-of” Of what, you may ask—of “making”? No—
and so the slight break ramifies and blooms
into shelf-feet of commentaries, monographs, and now
you must swiftly ransack your Sumerian—
yes, without Enuma Elish there’s no understanding the matter—
For it seems that that stately cosmogony begins
with just such another hermetic, mind-boggling ellipsis,
and so the two master-texts, with archaic courtesy, nod
across the millennia. But I forgot to mention
the Crimean War. It seems the war upset tbe local
Karaites, who saddled up and fled
to St. Petersburg, taking their cherished, oldest dated
scrolls of the Bible, wrapped, for freshness, in date-leaves, and left them
in the Public Library. But naturally, the Public Library!
And so these sectarians, not even actually, exactly,
Jewish—the rabbis’ deep-dyed foes—preserved the inerrant Word,
though not without hosts of tiny scribal errors
some day to set shuddering
whole forests of editors, compositors, microfilmers—