Desert Bread


One should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of one’s life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.
—Goethe

The phrase “Desert Bread” comes from my poem, “Moses,” which appears in my double volume of poetry, A Ship to Hold the World and The Marionette’s Ascent. It symbolizes that place at the intersection of the arts and faith. In this Midrashic poem, Moses trudges on through the desert, all the while longing to be near the banks of the Nile, the river of his lineage. Yet, he presses on through the desolation. What sustains him? The manna, desert bread, keeps him going, keeps him inspired.

In the desert of each of our lives, what keeps us going, and provides the light in the darkness? It may be a great song; a sublime painting; a few lines of a much-loved poem entering our mind as we journey a less-traveled road. Like faith, the arts can provide spiritual sustenance. Faith and the arts are closely linked. Both bring hope and transcendence. One who is without love of one usually has at least the love of the other.

I welcome you to come visit here to renew your soul’s sense of the beautiful, and I will do my best to share some sustenance in the form of art, poetry, and music á la Goethe. It’s a desert out there, but Moses had his desert bread, and so do we.

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Go down Moses – Louis Armstrong.flv

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The Miracle of Manna

Moses

“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in fire flaming out of a bush. As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed…the Lord said, ‘Come, now! I will send you to Pharaoh to lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’” (Ex 3:2, 10)

I was adopted from the river bank.
There’s something to the way reeds sway in wind,
the way they lean down low—that makes me thank
the One who gave me life. Yet I rescind
the urge to make my home the water’s edge—
though often in this desert all I see
are lotuses where sand should be, and sedge
instead of the occasional palm tree.
I tire of this desolation, miss
the structured boats, scaled pyramids, ripe trees.
But all I hear are crying babies, hiss
of camels. All around me: fear, unease.
How can I ever guide my people home,
when my spirit is trapped beneath the foam—

When my spirit is trapped beneath the foam,
beneath the Nile’s cool and trickling waves?
I long for fertile banks, the rich, dark loam.
Out in this wasteland, all I see are graves.
The river is my lineage. And yet
there’s something else that keeps me walking on.
I go because I’m paying off a debt
that never can be paid in full. Each dawn,
and every sunset, I become a reed
bowing in weariness. Why am I led
to thank this Wild Mystery? I need
my jealous God; the manna, desert bread—
the burning bush; the basket that held me
when I, an infant, floated helplessly.

—Annabelle Moseley
From A Ship to Hold the World and The Marionette’s Ascent