The rabbi is on radio, telling the story every generation tells about itself. It was war, he says, and the papers didn’t reach our little town. Those who found the odd edition and dared to read it, couldn’t risk sharing what they had read. The libraries lay in rubble. To own a radio was a capital offense. A man I knew, says the rabbi, was executed for pissing his name in the snow: publisher, they called him, publisher of seditious material. There was no news, no heat, no food. Instead of dinner, we sang songs of plenty, songs of love and youth and of a good and forgiving god who was, and always would be, this fruitful world. When we had nothing left, they took our maps and the books we had hidden, which were also maps. For all we knew, we were the only people of our kind left on earth. We told each other stories from the holy books. My father the rabbi, says the rabbi, knew many verses by heart; I remembered only songs, and those I had rewritten many times to suit myself. Now I sought others who knew the same songs, so we could reclaim and rewrite them on the air. It was not yet forbidden to converse. Some remembered parables; others prayers, lessons, pages of text once memorized and still intact. When memories were in conflict, a practical consensus informed us, and soon new books emerged, with an urgency missing from the old books. All the while, the world was writing chapters of its own, about places that had no names until we were taken there, whose names are now unspeakable. We understand history, who had to write our own while we were surviving it. Nothing written on paper can ever disprove us.

Copyright ©1997 David Hodges

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