Gematriyot – a poem by Sarah A. Etlinger

Gematriyot [1]

All those old Kabbalists
sitting in dark rooms, with
mystical abaci
counting and pacing and
counting some more, spin meaning
to fit each letter, so,
when called, they are filled with
sorcery: ordering
the universe bit by bit,
pattern by pattern,
shamanistic wallpaper
for the rooms in our brains.

As planes and syllables
slide along their axes
especially in your voice,
I cannot help but hear them
there, commanding
the letters to line up
and march, but some refuse:

some let go of the neat
arrangement and careen on echoes,
rejecting the order of the world and spill out.

This is what my rabbi
means, I think, when he says
some things are just not ordained.


Sarah A. Etlinger is an English professor who resides in Milwaukee, WI, with her family. In addition to writing, hobbies include cooking, traveling, and learning to play piano. Look for her work in The Penwood Review, The Magnolia Review, Cliterature, and many others. Her chapbook, Never One For Promises, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in 2019.

[1] Gematriyot (or gematria) is a Jewish version of numerology, where each character is assigned a number and, when “added” up, the numbers can be said to have a particular meaning. However, this is not a traditional practice, as it is found in the Kabbalah—books of Jewish mysticism.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s