Words, No Words

Pamela Greenberg
| poetry


There was an island in his chest,

and he called it “son.”

There was a small boat capsized on the ocean,

and he called it “faith.”

Once, there had been a rock he called “home,”

but now he called it only “before.”

Though he searched his lexicon,

there was no puzzle or stone

he could call “then.”

Later, of course, he would become

a buyer of graves, an arranger of marriage.

He would dig a hole, weeping, for his wife.

He would find a woman, a stranger,

for his silent son.

Later, he would walk and walk

through desert mornings, steam rising from the sand,

as though trying to shake a thought

from his head. At night, he would turn to books,

but sometimes lingered for hours

on a single sentence until he folded

the pages like a coffin and fell asleep.

As for Isaac, he wandered

into his own wilderness, a place with no words.


Pamela Greenberg’s translation of the psalms, The Complete Psalms: The Book of Prayer Songs in a New Translation, was published in 2010 by Bloomsbury. She has recently finished a memoir and is working on a collection of short stories. She has received residencies from the Millay Colony for the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

Five-Legged Spider