we may give praise to the wrong God
and remember only what illuminates
—Laksmi Pamuntjak, “A Traveler’s Tale”
The sky was clear, as it had been clear for months
despite our prayers for rain. The younger priests
carried the one-year-old calf up the mountain, lifted
by faith, for how could our master Baal fail us?
We stacked the rocks we found into an altar
and dug a trench round it to catch the blood.
The calf, white as milk and smooth, was quickly
tied down with the thin ropes Jeroboam brought.
A circle round the altar, far enough not to be singed,
we prayed in turn like passing a stone, we prayed
in unison. We tore our clothes, we scratched our faces,
we wept for a sign from heaven, wept into each other.
When the fire came, my back burned. I knew then,
without turning round, an age was passing, passing.