Collective Nouns

The Hebrew תֵבָה (tayva), normally translated as ark, 
can mean container, box, and, also, word.
When Noah was still 
	just a man, not yet sailor and savior, 
God said, 
				   “Make yourself a word,
				   for I have decided to silence 
				   all flesh.”
	Scraping muscle 
	    from a hide, his wife 
	crouched nearby, listening.
Without argument or question, without a single 
signal of warning to neighbors or friends,
her husband—that little wind-up toy, God’s docile 
errand boy—complied. He built the word 
to spec: big enough to hold 
two of every creature,
but too small for her 
			  mother, too small for her brother, no matter
											 how she begged. 

From planks of gopher wood smeared with pitch,
Noah built the word and God shut them up
in it. 
Water crushed down from the sky, fountained from the seas, dissolving 
living dust and breath 
			  to reefs of hushed mud. 
									And Noah: 
						   a silent man in a wooden word drifting 
							         the silenced world.

With an otter placid as a stole across his shoulders, 
instead of talking, 
	    he lived in his hands, picking
        nits; troughing food and water, always more water; tending, 
tending to every walking, creeping, winged thing, to all beings
but her—never lying beside her, never tasting 
the taste of sleep, his tongue 
withered to a husk.
The dark hold was mobbed with chitter, roar, and screech 
	     without restraint, and from outside, the ceaseless babble 
of wood and rain. She was drowning 
in languages she couldn’t speak, and he never offered her 
a word
        of comfort.

When the rains finally ended, Noah bound a rope to the rafters. 
Before the raven, before the doves, he lowered himself
from the word’s one window. A splash,
and he leashed the rope to his ankle; leaned
back and let his hands fall empty, let the flood 
							               embrace him. 
Grime sloughed from him into the waves 
until the only animal he smelled
        was himself. Noah
				  bobbed there, a beaming buoy,
			   tethered to the word
		      in which the future
floated, where his wife, unseen—the new Eve, humanity’s
unnamed mother—looked out from the window and watched 
      as he gave himself to the killing waters;
	          looked past him, trying not to think 
		              of the death and rot that brothed him.
Is a man good,
			 she wondered,
		who can construct a word 
						         large enough 
					       for only a chosen few? 

And now, regardless of any covenant 
that once rainbowed the sky, before the world 
is again silenced—the water and weather 
		already rising— 
	what noun collective, what peaceful fleet 
lashed by syntax and spring lines
into a sentence of survival,
				    what new words
				can we build
					          to save us