by Jeff Newberry

. . . as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that
the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
                                                —Exodus 34:29

The world was all ocean once, saline
like the amniotic sack that nursed us
nine months in the womb.
Little more than sea creatures then,
we emerged to a cragged world
split at the seams & leaking glory.
In Kilimanjaro, (they say) the panther’s
bones have long since thawed,
the peak now more visible than ever.
They say soon, at Ararat, we might find
Noah’s ship, belly up, skeletal beams
rotted & soft. I never doubt
the tales I’ve heard. The tide turns
all stories to waves, rolls words
into white foam that clings to a beach
head as water reclaims the sand.
Perhaps we’re born to climb,
scale up toward hooded sky,
where clouds hide the deepest blues.
There, monasteries thrive, far
from the rising tide that will take us
all back soon. There, near the sun,
is God’s voice clearer? Are they stunned
into silence each morning, the monks
who chant in unison, braiding their songs
to tight cords no wind unravels?
When Moses came down the mountain,
his face glowed, burned by holy fire.
I like to think of his dried tongue,
a piece of leather in his mouth.
I think of his throat & the ache,
the thirst he’d never quench.

JEFF NEWBERRY was born on the Florida Gulf Coast and returns there any time he gets a free moment. He teaches composition, creative writing, and literature at Abraham Baldwin College in South Georgia, where he lives with his wife, his son, and his daughter, who was born with Spina Bifida. His books include the novel A Stairway to the Sea (Pulpwood Press, 2016) and Brackish (Aldrich Press, 2012). With the poet Brent House, he is the co-editor of The Gulf Stream: Poems of the Gulf Coast (Snake Nation Press, 2013). Find him online at or send a short missive to @FlaExile on Twitter.

Photo: “Ocean’s Edge” by Richard Rydge