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“Halfe a Yard of Rede Sea”

ISSUE:  Spring 1983

  Item in the records of the Coventry Cappers,
    Corpus Christi pageant, c. 1574


An afterthought? When all but one
of the glovers or joiners who signified

Red Sea had been sewn
fine caps for ready

identification? Or was it thriftily
cut in two and hung

on staffs that parted to let God’s
people go through? The waters dividing

were not more mute
about their ways and means than this

account book entry made
four hundred years ago. A wall

on the right, a wall on the left.
We know the hours a man would spend

assembling chamois or lengths of wood
to earn the sixpence that bought

the sea. We know as well as he how white
the hand appears that harms those bent

on harming us.
Gratitude’s been brief

as Pharaoh’s softened heart for longer
than his rue, so books

parcel memory: this I’ve paid,
this I owe. Though bread lie plentiful

as dew, the people shall measure
the portion they eat, and want

what the past looks like from here
as half a yard of sea might want

the moon. The wilderness
hath shut them in. The players in red

are looking the other way. And the mind
must reckon with waters that have no

mind to open or heal so legibly


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