My father was God and didn’t know it. He gave me
the Ten Commandments not in thunder and not in anger,
not in fire and not in a cloud, but gently
and with love. He added caresses and tender words,
“Would you” and “please.” And chanted “remember” and “keep”
with the same tune, and pleaded and wept quietly
between one commandment and the next: Thou shalt not
take the name of thy Lord in vain, shalt not take, not in vain,
please don’t bear false witness against your neighbor.
And he hugged me tight and whispered in my ear,
Thou shalt not steal, shalt not commit adultery, shalt not kill.
And he lay the palms of his wide-open hands on my head
with the Yom Kippur blessing: Honor, love, that thy days
may be long upon this earth. And the voice of my father —
white as his hair. Then he turned his face to me one last time,
as on the day he died in my arms, and said, I would like to add
two more commandments:
the Eleventh Commandment, “Thou shalt not change.”
and the Twelfth Commandment, “Thou shalt change. You will change.”
Thus spoke my father, and he turned and walked away
and disappeared into his strange distances.