Friday, October 12, 2012

The Patriarchs

Here's a collection of poems that work together. I feel they are more or less finished now--both the individual poems and the collection.


Then the Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Genesis 18:10

The Lord delivered with a straight face:
without a wink, or smirk. Still,
Sarah chuckled to herself.

He had a quirky sense of timing,
building tension to the absurd:
the Lord delivered with a straight face.

It was ridiculous—she was old,
a desert, withered and used-up,
Sarah chuckled to herself.

God’s humor was dry,
with unexpected punch-lines
the Lord delivered with a straight face.

When her son was brought out
from a barren place,
Sarah chuckled to herself:

With Israel He’d use a mighty hand
and an outstretched arm; but Isaac,
the Lord delivered with a straight face,
Sarah chuckled to herself.

Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Genesis 22:7

Abraham believed God,
was credited as righteous;
Isaac was unconvinced.

A slow, quiet ascent
stiff with anxiety; still
Abraham believed God.

If God could provide the lamb,
why make them take the trip?
Isaac was unconvinced.

Reminding himself
the Lord was gracious,
Abraham believed God.

Queer words tested faith,
still there was the promise.
Isaac was unconvinced.

Despite harsh pedagogy,
God blessed Abraham and
Abraham believed God;
Isaac was unconvinced.

“The first one emerged red, like hairy mantle all over; so they named him Esau.”
Gen. 25:25

After a bright red billow pad
came out of such a tender place
no wonder she favored the smooth son
no wonder she stopped after the twins.

Esau said, "I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself."
Genesis 33: 8-9

I was born with five tiny bruises
on my heel. That little shit
was good at grasping.
I still walk with a limp.

I grew up, my brother stole
my inheritance. I would’ve killed him then,
but my mother warned him. He slunk away.
Out of reach,
not out of mind.

I was left
to look after my lost inheritance,
with a father who gave it away,
and a mother who nagged me about
how Jacob would have done things:
it’s better to work smart than hard. 

I wrestled
with visions of my brother
wearing his hand-me-down blessing
in a land of milk and honey.
I spent my time revising:
if only I had packed a lunch.
I put my muscle against these thoughts,
and won only exhaustion. 

I threw up my hands:
enough is enough.
I learned to let go,
that is my blessing.

Now, I make my own lentil stew.
I eat it every day.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.
Genesis 32:24

My father chuckled
when he named me
deceiver.

My mother taught me to grow into the name,
took me under her wing, showed me
where weakness lived in the family:
the slow-witted and dim-sighted,
where and how to seize my advantage.

I quit wrestling early,
after a half-dozen rug-burns
from my brother’s bristled fore-arms:
smooth skin learns to think
quick and shrewd,
looks ahead of muscle, finds contests
where victory is assured.

Slippery.
Clever.
Blessed,
not by right but cunning:
ill-gotten, undeserved.

That night was quiet:
no moon or stars, only black.
I was alone with no trick to rescue me.
Whoever he was, he matched me wit for wit,
left me no chance to slink,
no advantage to seize,
or weakness to exploit—
I wrestled for my blessing.
The contest went through the night,
each move he anticipated and countered.
It was monotony, but I kept at it.
In the dim light before dawn I could see
he was unfazed: no heavy breath or sweat.
He stood straight, stared at me, waiting.
I lunged one last time, he stepped aside quick,
but I caught hold of his ankle and clung to it;
I did not let go.

The Man laughed, gave me a limp and a new name.


Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, 
Genesis 29:31

Jacob was a weak-eyed man,
never stopped to wonder
where his breakfast came from,
or why Leah would get up hours before dawn,
never noticed the way her laugh filled the room,
or how his kids smiled when they heard it.
Jacob never recognized the grace
he received by Laban’s deception.

Those nights Jacob spent with the pretty one,
the Lord came to sit with Leah, to enjoy her,
comforted with simple affirmations:
she was beautiful, she was blessed.

Leaning close,
He told her secrets:
she was the favored one,
there was surprise
yet unimagined
hidden in her.

Leah treasured all these things,
and pondered them in her heart.

1 comment:

Sarah Steele said...

Wow! These are my favourite! Well done Jake. Liking your new style. Bible poems! Exegesis = art!