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Oil (An Erasure of Genesis)
In the beginning, the earth was without form. The face of the deep moved upon the face of the waters. Light divided from darkness, shall become light, is becoming light. The earth brought forth great whales, and every living creature of the earth made the earth over and over and over and over.

There went up a mist from the earth. Dust of the ground breathed into life, out of the ground, pleasant to the sight, in the midst of the garden. Knowledge of good and evil went out and parted and became the onyx river. Bone of bones, and flesh of flesh, taken out of one flesh, naked and not ashamed. 

Eyes opened in the cool of the day. Hid amongst the trees, between Enmity and Grief, Impulse and Rule, the ground of lives, thorn and weed, sweat of nostrils. Bread. Return. From her you were taken and to soil you shall return.

Of the ground, a flaming sword turned every way to keep the way. In process of time, brought the fruit of the ground unto hot faces, downcast. “The portal in the field is Brother. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Voice of blood, of brother of you, from the ground. The earth opened her mouth to blood, a fugitive and vagabond in the earth. 

Upon the land, a city and tents and cattle; the father of the harp and organ; an instructor in brass and iron. All the days lived were generating and becoming all days. There were giants in the heart. The earth filled with pitch. The high hills were covered in nostril life. 

A wind passed over the fountains of the deep. A raven went to and fro to see the face of the ground, but found no rest for the sole of her foot. An olive offered burnt offerings: “The ground’s heart is from every living thing, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night—the fear of you—every moving meat, a green flesh. Life is blood.” 

The earth overspread with backward faces and not nakedness. Sons born after sons of the sons of the isles divided in their lands. Every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations. Sons and sons in the city of –ite –ite –ite. The families of –ites spread abroad. In their countries, in their nations, the name of one was the earth divided. 

Tongues after nations had brick, stone, and slime for mortar to build and make a name. Scatter upon the face of the earth. Nothing restrained them, which they imagined to do. Their language scattered upon the face of the earth. And the earth did scatter. 

Out of country and house, a nation passed as land, as place, as oak. A mountain pitched west and east and called to the king of king, the king of the vale of the salt sea by the wilderness, in the vale, the king and king and king of four kings five. 

By night, the valley of the earth delivered a thread that will not take. The young men eat the portion of mortals, “Fear not! The stars seed the land. Inherit it. Take heifer and goat, a ram and turtledove and young pigeon. Divide them, each piece one against the other.”

The birds came down upon carcasses. The sun was going down. A deep sleep fell, a horror of great darkness, for iniquity is not yet full. The sun was a smoking furnace, a burning lamp that passed between pieces. 

From river unto river in the wilderness, the fountain said, “Affliction.” The flesh fell … the flesh of the day … flesh of flesh … 

Money appeared in the plains and sat in the tent door in the heat of the day. Eyes looked toward the ground, and said, “Pass not away. I pray. Rest under the tree. Hasten into the tent. Make three measures of fine meal. Knead and make cakes. Fetch a calf, tender and good, and dress it. Eat. Return. Old and well. Laugh within. Wax old. Have pleasure. Is anything too hard?” 

Life, which is come and went, drew near, and said, “All is but dust and ash. Wilt the city.” 

At the gate, in the street, old and young people from every quarter call, “Shut the door.” Under the shadow, pressed sore upon the door, the city is waxen before the face. Lingered the hand upon the hand. “Escape. Be consumed. Magnified.” 

“I cannot escape. This city is a little one. I have accepted this city. I cannot do anything.” 

That which grew beheld fear. “What has been done to us? Fear is this place and will slay. A thousand pieces of silver cover the eyes.”

The burnt hand and knife went together to slay Fear, caught in a thicket by his horns.

Years of life died out of sight. 

At the gate of the field, people bury the dead and the silver. The borders made possession of all that went in the gate. Country and Kin follow again. Give. Take. Be willing. Again. By the well of the city, the flocks and herds and silver and gold and camels and asses have given all. Words bow to eat and drink. After that, go away in the land named Fear.

Death sowed the year. The wells stopped and filled with earth. In the valley called Fear, eyes were dim. Weapons quiver and take near the smell of raiment, the smell of a field of dew and the fatness of the earth and corn and wine. Eaten words cry, with subtlety taken away: “What good shall life do? Take and make?

The sun set on the earth, the seed, the dust. The families of the earth, awaked afraid. A great stone was upon the mouth. Flocks gathered and rolled the stone from the mouth. 

The children, with great wrestling, called and found mandrakes in the field—rods of green poplar and hazel and chestnut tree pilled white in them. When the cattle were words taken away, the field said, “Change. Suffer. Hurt. The speckled shall be wages? The cattle bare speckled and the ringstraked shall be hire? Taken away? And given.” 

The rams leaped upon the cattle, speckled and grizzled. Sheep stole and fled over the river, toward the night. In the day, the drought consumed and the frost by night. Sleep departed from eyes. Fear had been the stone. A witness. 

Fear called to night and early morning and sons and daughters and departed and returned and stayed. Fear, as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered, lodged that which came: ten foals, the fjord, the breaking of the day. The sun halted upon the children of sinew, upon the hollow of the thigh. Children over ground embraced and fell and kissed and wept. Eyes saw the tender flocks and herds with young. 

Soft as cattle, the children in the land, pitched the city. The gate of the city circumcised the city. Fear called the ghost-gathered days. A veil wrapped an open face. Time thread into the night. 

A vine budded. Blossoms shot forth ripe grapes. The grapes gave a basket of birds. By the river, came up seven well-flavored cows. Upon the brink, seven ears of corn, rank and good.

Seven thin ears sprung up after them. The seven thin ears devoured the seven full ears. Upon the bank of the river, seven other cows came up, poor and ill and ill did eat the fat. When they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; they were still ill-favored, as at the beginning—and the plenty forgotten. 

The face of the earth waxed sore. With their faces to the earth, the naked let Fear commune with them. Their heart failed. They were afraid, saying, “Fear. Weep. Eat. Silver. Gold. Ground. City. Speak in ears, old and little dead. Eyes cannot pass the words a little food.”

Fear, buried and dim, stretched, unstable as water, into the secret assembly, gathering blood and milk to bear a fruitful well whose branches run over the wall, the grieved, the arms, the hands, the shepherd, the deep, the breasts, the womb, the utmost bound of the everlasting hills, the crown of the head, wolf, the prey … The field made a face to speak a sore lamentation for seven days, called beyond and unto, carried into the land and the cave an unsent messenger—Fear—in place, thought, this day. Fear not speaking shall bring up the bones. 


This erasure of Genesis was made using the 
Hebrew Interlinear Bible (OT).

Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel has published essays in Iowa Review, Drunken Boat, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. A recipient of the Richard J. Margolis Award, she holds a masters degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and an MFA from Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. She teaches creative writing at Whitman College.
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