The Tabernacle

By Emily Warn Emily Warn
Hope fills me this morning as I fashion letters
into a tree that sighs, that stays put yet moves,
reaching to its limits, swaying and settling,
a compass pointing to its place on earth
where every morning it blocks the sun
for me, at work in my studio,
where I scratch and scrawl and loop
letters into shapes so I can enter the Tabernacle
of their bodies and hear each foot, each syllable
sending its roots to a depth as great as that tree’s,
which has been standing and rooting and swaying
long before I came to memorize its plain mystery,
its wide-bodied hull open to stars at night,
each a point that I lengthen into a letter
and each letter into a word, and with the words
build a Tabernacle for the ten most broken
and the ten most resonant words. I will place them
in an inner sanctum enclosed by hanging carpets,
and outside it, another space enclosed by carpets,
and outside it, another, so that those who wish
to read the words, to say them out loud,
must first pull one curtain back and step inside,
and then another, and another until they arrive
in a hushed space, a soundproofed, heavy quiet
where they come to know that which makes all things
                                                                     day after day,
and out of which the earth was made.
Stepping behind each curtain they learn
that the mystery of making is not a secret hidden within
but a series of moves, a sequence of steps,
outlined on a blueprint with notes and call-outs,
white on black, constellations in the night sky,
the primordial living Torah, circulating in the letters
as trees circulate light, capturing it with their leaves,
caching it within the soil, then drawing it back up,
watering the tallest branches with the radiant dark.

Emily Warn, “The Tabernacle” from Shadow Architect. Copyright © 2008 by Emily Warn. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: The Shadow Architect (Copper Canyon Press, 2008)

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Poet Emily Warn

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Religion, Judaism, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Emily  Warn


Emily Warn was born in San Francisco and grew up in California and Detroit. She earned degrees from Kalamazoo College and the University of Washington. Her full-length collections of poetry include The Leaf Path (1982), The Novice Insomniac (1996), and Shadow Architect (2008). She has published two chapbooks: The Book of Esther (1986) and Highway Suite (1987) and is the founding editor of, Warn’s poems and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Judaism, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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