All the peoples of all the world degrade one other’s gods but Jews first think your gods do not exist.
An ordinary man, I go with the gods who
bring me but as the Babylonians drag around Yahweh
I call all concerned to say
we’re going in an entirely different direction, all other gods nothing. And it’s done! You find tons of
ancient Israeli idols until exile, then nearly none. Yahweh marks Israelites
from Canaanites when Israel’s Canaan. We’re the un-Canaanites,
mighty, mighty non-Canaanites
and not the Canaanites bleeding other Canaanites for the dough to buy Egyptian protection to bleed Canaanites
for more protection as un-
Canaanites take to hills and caves, wiping out Canaan slowly, though sometimes violently, from within,
part of the larger collapses of the Mesopotamian ‘n Egyptian empires bookending Canaan. Canaan’s almost by definition backwater and the ecological kaleidoscope between what’s wilderness and settled naturally selects conditions
for a new egalitarian land reforming ethnic identity.
How sudden’s the swing to Israel? One or two hundred years. Check
archaeological evidence like palace burn marks and chopped monuments, hinting violent overthrow in Hazor, more gradual power shifts elsewhere. Are you sure Israel goes that far back? Some doubt it, but it’s hard to ignore Egyptian references to Israelites and Canaan to Israel continuity in pottery that’s less fancy but made the same—a big collective fingerprint—and yet small pillar-courtyard interconnected homes linking extended families, dearth of palaces, and open agricultural planning, show Canaan like Jacob Israel. Israelite gods
the irresistibly populist Yahweh. The guy walks in our courtyard—
El’s intimate identity— god qua god,
Yahweh is the god, the twin gods peak but he’s the man,
stern yet bubbly, a bit psycho, warm, egalitarian, not about fertility as much as his god pals and concubine—so you need the others.
Still, Yahweh’s for guerrilla, misfit, and dreg,
a new take on god Yahu from Midian, where Moses meets Him and He goes,
“I met Israelites before but they thought I was someone else.” How awkward. If the exodus couldn’t have happened,
it’s still the oldest, most stirring Hebrew tale, oddly nailing
where they contact Yahweh
cuz that matters more than what might have happened to brave Canaanite slaves, a story you recall cuz easy to forget.
Liberation’s unnatural so you need soppy miracles. Proto-Jews are incredibly serious—funny even— about how they treat one another but also terrified to be an other— you come from the other and could slip back. Classless agrarian utopia morphs to monarchy, though King David’s self-made and the critics who make you feel like crap about the direction the country is going still get enshrined in an oddly secular culture— ancient Hebrew having no word for “religion”— so what is we sway on Yahweh’s sword- tip major to minor ev’ry time we say goodbye there’s such an air of gore you doven through it—Hebrew from the Egyptian “cross” or “across” as in Abraham going through Canaan from Mesopotamia to Egypt ‘n back to Canaan— a terminal backwater— a little like the 2 “cameras” (Mesopotamia and Egypt)
bleeding together on the screen to form 3D— that little slit on the crease of the two projections—
what Hitchcock discovers in the incredible 3D- version of Dial M for Murder is that the slimmest everyday items— a key, for instance— are most likely to reach your face.
Hebrews swing across the universe since you can’t erase it, setting up synagogue scales absolutely insecure in major or minor. On the one hand there’s the other hand. And what’s so Yahweh or the ha-way? Am I ever monotheist? Hell, I like other gods. I know God does. So what’s with the Book of Judges going “all the gods of all peoples of all the nations are NOTHING”? Plato might pick up on this gizmo pulling the rug on the obvious, giving reason the place of Yahweh over divine family romance & poetry. Later, Greek Jews like Philo of Alexandria translate iconoclasm and monotheism onto one operational plane or platform or ground softening monotheism, opening it a little, inviting you in
and centuries and centuries later—now— we want everyone
monotheist so we know they play in our world. If you worship many gods
slobs think you’re a snob, snobs think you’re a slob so the Japanese, for instance, partly to avoid looking like children, after Admiral Perry, prop their emperor to hide their gods. You’re okay as long as you believe in one god and since there’s only one god it has to be the same God—NOT—but that’s okay with God who is also other gods. Huh? God’s with us, not you— he works through you, Cyrus, to take us back to Jerusalem proving Y---- great, and that’s when we really toss our idols ‘n go mono because like Captain and Tennille only one god will keep us together and buzz in belief already has. In exile, circumcision becomes big. People around us aren’t circumcised and you have to stay Jewish— a very creative move since Yahweh’s somehow able to move from land and temple to text. Good luck, Yahweh. I love your new home. The figure in the text orients us like Japan opening to the west
reordering itself around the emperor ‘n making him God to show
a face of unified strength to the outside world. They go along to get along. Believing in many gods is okay among themselves but infantile to the West.
The Japanese aren’t monotheist and neither are we, handy as it is. One god sweeps the others in a dustpan and walks away deist-style so we’re all cool ‘n study what he left. Computers hang on God’s trickster track connecting all computable operations. Another god can’t come out of nowhere. The culty Enigma code changes every day, but each day monotheism reasserts itself and wins World War II. Monotheism everything not only itself, it’s nice to be a monotheist— one god, one people, one person— but God has no friends, it’s boring without figure-ground excitement sustaining on and off again oneness, i.e., Jewish culture, the pivot every Westerner has to make to the accident-in-reverse we come from— the Midian of Deuteronomy— giving up on teenage drama for Shakespearian soliloquy. Who are you talkin’? Even Jews go back cuz they left something. Like Odysseus, Moses returns not as Moses but many Moseses, Moses descending a staircase.
Berlin goes through Jerusalem—Irving Berlin that is cuz what cantors like Berlin’s and Harold Arlen’s dads sing really does go way back back back to ancient Israel.
“In his constant shifting from major to minor keys” Cole Porter “consciously wrote Jewish melodies (191),” says Jack Gottlieb in his Smithstonian book. Richard Rodgers and Yip Harburg are surprisingly intent on Porter admitting his Jewish debt though Porter makes no secret Irving Berlin’s his man— Berlin writes words and music too. Rodgers writes music so Jerome Kern’s his avatar. Berlin looks up to George M. Cohan so it’s not ALL about being Jewish— No! Cohan’s not Jewish of course
though a friend thought he was
so I had to look it up and his wife was partly Jewish, but I never say it is about being Jewish, just hard to avoid and
radical as in a root of much culture, art, and poetry. Yahweh’s the top, but I’m a flop of infinite grammatical equivalences, and Rodgers feels Porter hides too much, singling out “Night and Day,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Love for Sale,” “I Love Paris,” and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” as Porter’s greatest and most Jewish pieces. Harburg and Rodgers report what Cole tells them to prove how consciously Cole adapts Yiddish and East European synagogue tonal shifts and syncopations. Porter says he needs to base his music on that music to write his version of this fine and elegant new American music. I don’t know anything about music but feel God’s favorite poetry is fine and elegant, and before it ever occurs to me Jerome Kern might be Jewish I can’t get over how songs don’t sound like songs before him, but the divide’s Berlin’s 1911’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” "the first real American musical work,” raves George Gershwin. Porter’s labeled the great non-Jewish American songbook writer—but what about Johnny Mercer?—though he’s younger and collaborates so much with Arlen and other Jewish songwriters, but there are other brilliant non-Jewish twenties and thirties songwriters such as Ellington and a plethora of other African Americans, yet I hear what riles Rodgers and Harburg. Not only does Jewish culture influence popular music, it makes it what it is, a jazzier take on the pogo, dovening as you glide. It might be a one-god world but Jewish culture’s always shifting from minor to major to minor to major before you can crack the code of wherever the hell you are. When the 19th century empire of poetic form disintegrates, poets emigrate to Whitman— Irving Berlin and Cole Porter in one— or really Whitman is Moses— as important as it is to Freud that Moses be Egyptian not Jewish since Freudian Moses needs a good murdering to be mourned, celebrated, eaten, and postdated in new Jewish ways. Before the temple burns, the ten commandments
are found miraculously in temple archives making Josiah cry at what a bad ass
Moses—Deuteronomy Moses—is. He knows way back many strange gods will fuck us, says Josiah and when the temple smokes
Moses is reborn. Similarly, poets Whitman inspires right off don’t carry Whitman to us. His greatest influence is indirect. He needs to be ignored before permeating poetry. Through Whitman biblical forms spread— just talking, or anyway talking in Yahweh’s most intimate public address, exquisitely makeshift grammatically parallel improv, syncopated logos pulling rabbis out of the text, neurotically close- to-the-vest redistributions of relaxed poetic emphases— hallmarks of how Jews succeed in modern poetry without even being there.
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