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Let There Be Translators!

And the Lord said, ‘‘Behold, the people is one and they have all one language… Go to, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’’

Genesis XI: 6, 7.

When God confused our languages, he uttered,

in sapphire tones: ‘‘Let there be translators!’’

And there were conjurors and necromancers

and alchemists, but they did not suffice:

they turned trees into emeralds, pools to seas.

God spoke again: ‘‘Let there be carpenters

who fasten edges, caulk the seams, splice timbers.’’

They were good.

God said: ‘‘Blessed is the builder

who leaves his tower, turns from bricks and mortar

to marvel at the flames, the smith who fumbles

for prongs, wields andirons, and prods live coals,

who stokes the hearth and welds two irons as one.’’

Praised was the man who wrote his name in other

handwriting, who spoke in other tones,

who, knowing elms, imagined ceiba trees

and cypresses as though they were his own,

finding new music in each limitation.

Holy the one who lost his speech to others,

subdued his pen, resigned his failing sight

to change through fire’s change, until he saw

earth’s own fire, the radiant rock of words.