Edmund Griffiths  

E d m u n d   G r i f f i t h s

Nadab and Abihu

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

                Lev. 10:1f.

For a moment Abihu wanted to stop
when Nadab stood on the cusp of the ritual
and the sky around them curled like incense
                trembled like fire
                rolled into music

He looked from the scrub and the stony ground
to the celebrant drunk on the Kenite sciences
who suddenly resembled their ancestor Isaac
                and he said to him softly
                Nadháv my brother

there’s so much here we don’t understand
another day we can finish the experiment
it’s something at least we were prepared to try it
                but Nadab answered
                Courage Avíhu

we’re far too close to be scared off now
and whatever the powers may devise as a penalty
those who come after will never forget us
                seizing knowledge
                like freedom from Egypt