I began this poem in early 1986, not knowing how to tell my story or where it was supposed to go. My understanding of both of those problems evolved organically as I wrote. When I began I knew this much: the story was about a Messenger of God, Elmallah (‘el malakh’ is the Hebrew for ‘the messenger’), who comes to this world, which he knows as Ertha, with the task of spiritually elevating her. “Spiritual elevation” is a nebulous term. At the time I understood it to mean infusing her with moral responsibility, and opening her eyes to the Divine.
So Elmallah’s story begins with this first descent, where he is shocked to see Ertha’s condition and the complexity of his task. To him, Ertha is but a prehistoric woman, wild, sexual, intimidating, attractive. How is he going to elevate her, to bring her to God? This relatively short scene became Bouk 1.
Of course, for a being from a higher world, time is not a constraining factor in the same way it is for us, for whom only a small fractal of our conscious being dwells in higher states. Thus, in Elmallah’s next moment thousands of years have passed. Ertha has aged and she is emerging into the social complexity we call civilization. He introduces himself, but she is highly skeptical. Her physical needs and her physical senses define her goals and desires.
Elmallah’s next moment, Bouk 3, takes place in a Sumerian setting. Now Elmallah’s job begins to focus and as it does, each book gets a secondary name. This book is known as “Fragmenz ov the Innonna Sikel.” Trying to find a common ground with Ertha, Elmallah seeks her in the form of Inanna, the Sumerian proto-Ishtar. He himself assumes the form of Dumuzi, the shepherd god and sometime lover of Inanna. So, as I retell the Sumerian mythology of Dumuzi and Inanna, I rewrite it so that it also tells the story of Elmallah’s struggle to enlighten Ertha. We see that Innonna/Inanna/Ertha has moments of awakening, tho her understanding of them is inchoate and frustrating. As with this book, in each further book, I retell a known historic story, but I tell it in the framework of Elmallah’s labor to spiritualize Ertha.
When they meet again, Bouk 4, Elmallah is able to descend yet further into Ertha’s spirit. He now is able to assume a fully human form, in this case the Byzantine emperor Justinian, and in this form he finds Ertha thru Theodora. Bouk 4 is known as “The Sikelz in Theyodorra.”
Descending still further, in Bouk 5 Elmallah embodies himself as the theologian/philosopher Abelard, and Ertha is his lover Heloise. This book is subtitled “The Fawl ov Helloweez.” With each of these incarnations Ertha’s spiritual knowledge grows. And yet, each life/moment brings the crisis of death and loss, and with it Ertha’s fear of not being able to re-find Elmallah, her Messiah, of sorts. And at this point, for me, it was 9 years later, 1995.
It was at about this time that I began what would become the last book of the series. It would take place during the Shoah, the Holocaust, and Elmallah and Ertha would be Jews caught up in that disaster. At the time that I began writing this book I realized intuitively, but not with much intellectual depth, that it is one thing to find God as an empress or as a nun and Abbess. But it is another thing to find God in the Shoah. And that, intuitively, is what I set out to do. This vast majority of this book took about 5 years to write, and in the process, I renamed it many names, until I finally settled on “Gottverdammerung: In the End ov Time.” And while I was writing it, I revised and synchronized the previous 5 books, tying them together thru repeating images and direct quotes, the quotes appearing as “deep indents” in the text. You might think of deep indents as footnotes placed directly in the body of the text, in which I repeat related lines or stanzas from earlier books. Here’s an example from Bouk 6:
Wut ar the werdz tu pennatrate the darkness?
Wut ar the praerz tu open hoepless iyz?
Kan I kast down liez and brake them on the kobbelz?
The tempel bekame a smoking kiln
Pakt with fiyer and saekred vesselz...
In the heet
The saekred vesselz shatterd.
The shivverz flu in wite-hot arks...
from Bouk 1
By around 2004 I had completed fair copies of the first five books. However, I continued working sporadically on Bouk 6, while I worked on new, more pressing projects. Periodically I’d think, “Come on, Steve; finish Bouk 6.” I’d work on it a little, but because it still needed a lot of work, and because intellectually I wasn’t fully prepared to make some of the conceptual decisions that were necessary, I’d put the manuscript aside.
It is only now, in these last 2 months of 2016 that I feel prepared intellectually (and emotionally) to produce a fair copy of Bouk 6. I have eliminated almost all the red text (notes, problems, critiques, suggestions) and parenthetic alternatives (alternative words, phrases and lines marked off by parentheses). I have also composed a couple of new poems for which there were only brief notes or some sketched lines, and have comprehensively rewritten a few other poems that missed their target by a wide margin, or didn’t yet seem to have a target. In coming weeks I will be posting some of the poems in this long poem series, here in Filtered Light, my public notebook, my blog.
Welcome to The Song ov Elmallahz Kumming, a Poem in 6 Bouks.
Your comments, of course, will be graciously welcomed and valued.