“Reading Exodus” by Craig van Rooyen

Craig van Rooyen


after Marie Howe

The thing about the Old Testament is that
at least metaphorically

God has balls. If Pharaoh can’t make up his mind fast,
he’s looking at a world of hurt:

“You don’t think it’s time to let my people go?
Well maybe it’s time for me

to open up a whole can of frogs and boils, asshole.”
That’s Yahweh for you.

A guy who wears the pants in the family.
Sometimes I fantasize

about saying to the woman I married: “Let my
people go,

or frogs will multiply in your eight-hundred-dollar
Italian motorcycle boots.”

By “my people,” I mean primarily me. But if
history is any lesson,

that would only lead to years in the wilderness.
Not to mention

an unnecessary sacrifice of children. As a minor prophet once said:
“Wherever you are,

there you are”—whether that’s turning circles
in the desert for forty years,

or paying a mortgage in the suburbs and making
small talk on date night.

Remember the story of the Golden Calf? When all the people
took off their wedding rings,

thinking they would get a second chance at love?
They danced and threw their lives

into the fire. Look at the poor bastards there around the flames,
faces glowing, while Yahweh gathers himself

on the mountain top. They feel the desert on their backs,
they feel the sky is ready to collapse.

Look at them. They’re dancing.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012


Craig van Rooyen: “My father is a preacher and I grew up strong on words and Southern cooking. I think the old stories in scripture still can give shape to our longings if we let the words live in our imaginations. The ‘I’ in ‘Reading Exodus’ is not autobiographical. I live with my wife of fifteen years, happily married, on the Central Californian coast—maybe not the land of milk and honey, but pretty close.”

Rattle Logo