I began writing this poem early Palm Sunday morning and finished just before midnight on Good Friday. But, essentially it has been a year in the making. Consider what I wrote in my Christmas blog four months ago:
So, this feels like the final third of a trilogy and I no longer have that sense that I've left out that something else.
Looking back, I'm not sure what that something else was supposed to look like as most of the concepts here are new to me since last week. I'd heard of Lamb Selection Day, but didn't know about the month of Nisan. I didn't know about Jesus riding through the Sheep Gate until a few days ago. If you remove the idea of the Bethlehem lambs which I learned about last Christmas, then there isn't much left that I actually knew about — other than the blood-stained door frame in the shape of the cross.
Lamb Selection Day
A few days before Sunday, he crossed Jordan's River,
to the Jericho side Jesus came.
Years before, crossed the people God sought to deliver,
on the tenth day of Nisan, the same.
Forty years before that God was building a nation
with a people awaiting I AM;
they were asked to prepare for their coming salvation
with the death of an innocent lamb.
On the tenth day of Nisan, their lamb was selected;
without defect or blemish or scar.
For the next four days this year-old lamb was inspected,
and protected from possible mar.
As the lamb lived among them, was there any grieving
when this lamb, on the fourteenth, was slain?
He'd provide the last meal for its family soon leaving,
and its blood on their door posts would stain.
On this tenth day of Nisan — Jerusalem's thriving,
over-crowded as you walk the streets.
With the lambs born in Bethlehem quickly arriving,
sometimes all you can hear are their bleats.
Here he comes! On a donkey and foal he is seated;
through the Sheep Gate the Shepherd has come.
Cloaks laid down and with waving palm branches he's greeted:
now he'll free them from Rome's heavy thumb.
For another four days he allows their inspection,
cross-examined and grilled to the end.
In the garden, arresting this Lamb of perfection,
he's betrayed with the kiss of a friend.
From that Sunday when crowds — in their wonder — surround him,
till he wrestles alone with the cost;
on the tenth day of Nisan the crowds would have crowned him,
by the fifteenth they scream for the cross.
As I've been writing this series, I have been taking everything as it comes. I'm not looking ahead beyond the next verse. So, I don't hop around from verse to verse. If I get stuck on a particular verse, I stay there until I get unstuck, then I move on.
I have been coming up against many "hard to understand" passages in Job — seemingly in every chapter. The "hard to understand" verse in this chapter showed up early, in verse 4.
I have become a laughingstock to my friends, though I called on God and he answered— a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless!
Job 12:4 • New International Version
Yet my friends laugh at me, for I call on God and expect an answer. I am a just and blameless man, yet they laugh at me.
Job 12:4 • New Living Translation
The first version implies that Job is a joke to his friends, but yet (independently) Job calls on God and God answered.
The second indicates that Job is a joke to his friends because Job calls on God and expects an answer.
So, which is it?
The variety of translations for this verse got me to consult some commentary and I found that there is no definitive rendering among scholars. In an effort to straddle the fence, I wrote that verse in my poem fairly ambiguously using that most beautiful of inventions, the colon (:).
Verse 17 says, He leads counselors away. Verse 18: they are led away; and in verse 19: He leads priests away. That's a lot of instances of away in three consecutive verses and I was going to say something clever about handling that in such "a way" that I didn't rhyme with away but once — but I JUST NOW saw that I failed in doing that!
This poem was finished last week and I've been re-reading it and just now saw that I have two "away" rhymes in back-to-back verses! If, I had noticed that while I was writing it I think I would have attempted something else, but now — I'm letting it slide.
I really try not to have the same word-endings in my poems but it gets harder the longer they are. But to have away as the rhyme in back-to-back verses — that's just unconscionable.
For some reason, I'm experiencing some real difficulty coming up with second titles for some of these poems. Last week, days after the poem was written, this one finally came to me. I remembered that there was already one entitled, God is Just, so God is Great seemed fitting. There may yet be more God is . . . titles as this is the tenth poem in what could possibly end up being a 40-poem series.
Job's Fourth Speech:
A Response to Zophar
God is Great
based on Job 12
You're the people, no doubt. Know it inside and out.
And all wisdom will perish with you!
But I know things, you see; you're no better than me.
Do you think that your words are brand new?
To my friends I'm a joke: when I questioned, God spoke.
I am just — but a laughingstock, still.
Those at ease can't relate to misfortunes and fate
of the ones they have pushed down the hill.
But the thieves are at ease, hating God is a breeze
since he keeps them secure in his hand.
Let the animals share with the birds in the air
and they'll give you the lay of the land.
Ask the earth for advice, let her teaching suffice;
and be schooled by the fish in the sea.
For their tales are the same: this disaster that came
from the hand of the Lord upon me.
For his hand holds the breath of all life until death
of mankind and of all living beasts.
As the ear tests each word — every sound that is heard,
so the tongue tastes the food of your feasts.
When we look for a sage we find wisdom with age,
understanding that years cannot dim.
O, but God is the source of true wisdom, of course,
understanding and might are from him.
Not a man can rebuild what he's torn down and stilled;
those imprisoned cannot be released.
If he held back the rain, only deserts remain;
if let loose, then his floods are unleashed.
Within him strength is found, and his wisdom is sound;
both deceived and deceiver he rules.
He sends counsel away, their advice in decay,
and wise judges are made to be fools.
He discharges the kings of their robes and their rings,
and they're led with their chains in defeat.
And he leads priests away, stripped of rank and cachet;
overthrows the established elite.
He has silenced and hushed those positioned for trust
and the elders' discernment is gone.
His contempt has been placed on the nobles, disgraced,
and he's loosened the belt of the strong.
Deepest secrets concealed now have all been revealed,
bringing dark into light of the day.
He makes nations of men and destroys them again;
builds them up, then he leads them away.
He strips kings of their sense who trade kingdoms for tents
as he sends them through wastelands to roam.
In the dark, without light, they're left groping like night,
and they stagger like drunks with no home.
But true wisdom and power are found in God;
counsel and understanding are his.
A couple of weeks ago, after my last post, I thought I would take a little break from writing for all of the reasons mentioned in that post. I had envisioned about a 5-week hiatus. There were 40-some days before Easter . . . maybe I could write an Easter poem at the end of that break and start in again.
My self-imposed break lasted exactly one week.
I couldn't stand not writing any longer. So, one week later (last week) I started in again, but limited myself to writing during certain times of the day. 5-7a is my writing time and I look forward to it — although it is occasionally shortened or sometimes missed altogether (since I'm not a morning person by nature). A couple of times last week, my dog wanted to go outside around 4a, and I thought, YES!
Part of the reason I was eager to get back into Job was because there was a new character being introduced in chapter 11 in the form of Zophar, the third of Job's three friends, and I couldn't wait to see what his voice sounded like.
And, that last sentence epitomized Zophar because he turned out to be quite the windbag! Lots of run-on sentences. As I thought about writing in his voice, I found I needed to use lots of words (syllables) per line.
Eliphaz needed eleven and eight syllables per line, so his 4-line verse is denoted as 22.214.171.124. Bildad was even more blustery, needing eleven syllables in each line of his 2-line verse (11.11). Job's lines look like 126.96.36.199 — but Zophar beat them all (188.8.131.52).
Its almost comical to listen to these guys go at it with each other. They call each other names; in the next couple of chapters Job says that he is "better" than the others — like kids on the playground.
Its also pretty sad to see Job's three friends try to console him. A few chapters ago, Bildad basically said that Job's children got what was coming to them. And in this chapter Zophar says that God, in his mercy, had been holding back on Job's pain — that his sins deserved even worse punishment!
Zophar's First Response to Job
More Grace than Deserved
based on Job 11
If the stream from your mouth went unanswered, we'd drown!
Do you think that your volume of words makes you right?
Should your babbling cause men to sit by without sound,
and your mocking persist without even a fight?
You have said, My beliefs are as pure as the snow,
and I'm blameless and clean before God's holy eyes.
But if only God opened his mouth would we know,
then his lips would declare what are truths, what are lies;
and he'd lay out his secrets of wisdom for you
in a straightforward fashion that you'd understand.
In his wisdom so manifold, perfect and true
you've been punished far less than your sin should demand!
Can you fathom the sheer depth of God in your mind?
Or discover the limits and bounds of Shaddai?
They are high — so much higher than heaven, you'll find.
They are deep — so much deeper than Sheol, they lie.
They are long — so much longer than earth can attest.
They are broad — so much broader than ocean or sea.
If a court was convened and God came to arrest
you, then who could restrain him? Not you, and not me!
For he knows the most worthless, deceitful of men,
and he notes every sin, evil deed and revolt.
And the fool can no more be intelligent than
any child can be born as a wild ass's colt.
As for you, if you'd only surrender your heart
and you'd stretch out your hands in a prayer of assent,
let your sinful intentions and evil depart
and allow no injustice to dwell in your tent,
surely then you will brighten and lift up your face
without blemish and shame you will stand without fear.
And, forgetting your troubles — they'll all be erased,
and remembered as waters that soon disappear.
And your life will be brighter than noon everyday;
even darkness will seem like the morning to you.
Gaining courage from hope in a confident way,
you will rest in security you never knew.
You will lie down at night and you won't be afraid;
you'll be sought out by others for counsel and aid.
For the wicked despair — no escape to be made;
with their last breath of air was the last prayer they prayed.
Listen! God is doubtless punishing you far less than you deserve!
After the last poem, I told myself that I needed to take a little break from writing, as it had become all-consuming. This is the eighth poem written in the past four weeks and other things in my life are not getting taken care of . . . like sleep, getting my taxes ready to be filed — that sort of thing.
My wife said that I was tapping my fingers on her back one night, like I was running a line through my head. Not cool.
Last week, my password at work expired and I replaced it . . . with Job's name stuck somewhere in the middle of it.
But, I couldn't help myself. Looking at the first verse led to the second verse and once I got started, I couldn't stop myself.
Since Job 10 contained 22 verses, I had planned for this poem to be eleven stanzas long. But, when I came across the verse using "wave after wave" and two verses later was "the grave", I couldn't pass that combination up.
I skimped on the verse in between those two in order to get the rhyme, which essentially messed up my timing for the rest of the poem. I could have forced some phrasing in order to get the final verse in there (Job 10:22) but it wouldn't have been pretty. Or, as effective.
Job's Plea to God
Created for This?
based on Job 10
I am weary of life. I'll complain of this strife;
let my soul, so embittered, cry out.
And to God, let me say, Don't condemn me this way,
let me know what my charge is about.
Are you pleased to oppress the one thing you could bless,
by rejecting the work of your hands?
While I struggle with trial, you just sit back and smile
at the wicked with all of their plans?
Are your eyes made of flesh? Do they see something less
than man's anguish and pain from within?
Are your days like my peers with our limited years —
that you eagerly search for my sin;
for although I am free of the guilt ascribed me
there is no one to save me from you.
From my toes to my heart, you have fashioned each part —
now those same hands will tear me in two?
Please remember that day when you formed me from clay;
you'll return me to dust now so soon?
Did you not pour me out like some milk from a spout,
make me curdle like cheese in the womb?
Then you covered me in my remarkable skin,
knit together my sinew with bone.
Gave me life and your love, kept me safe from above —
and my spirit from dangers unknown.
All these things you've concealed now have all been revealed;
and your secretive thoughts have been spilt:
you would note day and time if I sinned — like a crime,
yet you would not forgive me my guilt.
Whether guilty or right — its the same in your sight;
I'm ashamed and I'm filled with self-hate.
If I showed just one ounce of my pride, you would pounce
like a lion — your powers are great.
With new witnesses now you're more angry somehow,
sending hardships in wave after wave.
Why, then, even exist if I'm born to all this?
Why not send me from womb to the grave?
Since my days are so few I'd like one without you,
for one moment of joy — just a breath,
ere my trials adjourn and I never return
from the land of the shadow of death.
Remember that you made me from dust—will you turn me back to dust so soon?
Since I was able to write my last poem, Job.VI, in just two days, I was encouraged to take on this one. I was met with difficulty almost from the start.
I spent an entire day on the second verse, rereading it and thinking about it periodically throughout the day. After it is written, of course, I wonder why the second half of that verse gave me such fits. Essentially, for this poem at least, two Bible verses make up a 4-line verse of mine. Since Job 9 has 35 verses in it, mine contains 17 verses; and finding a suitable word to rhyme between the two halves of my 4-line stanza is sometimes problematic.
I spent most of another day thinking about these two verses and trying to bring them together in some cohesive fashion:
If He snatches away, who can hinder Him?
Who can say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’
God does not restrain His anger;
the helpers of Rahab cower beneath Him.
Some translations say proud helpers of Rahab while others say monsters of the sea and whales instead. Some scholars think that Rahab refers to Egypt, and others talk about a race of giants. There is no consensus, and here I am attempting to put a modern spin on some unknown, archaic phrase upon which nobody can can agree.
So, I wrestled with this one. All. Day. Long.
Once those two verses were completed, the rest was relatively easy. Some verses came as fast as I could type. Those are the fun ones.
There was no secondary title until after the poem was finished. I had to go back to reread the chapter a few times and I kept seeing words like mediator, arbitrator, judge, arbiter, and umpire in the various translations.
Job's Third Speech: A Response to Bildad
based on Job 9
You have said nothing new, for I know this is true.
Are my morals so different than God's?
If I filed a tort, could I answer in court
when a thousand-to-one are my odds?
For his wisdom is sound and his strength is profound;
who survives when they challenge his ways?
He moves mountaintops ere they are even aware;
in his anger, the mountains are razed.
God can make the earth quake, cause her pillars to shake,
let the whole world get knocked out of place.
If he asked of the sun, Do not rise — it is done;
to the stars, Do not twinkle in space.
For he's stretched out the sky in the heavens on high,
and he walks on the waves of the seas.
The Orion, the Bear, and the Pleiades there —
he has hung constellations like these.
We cannot understand the great works of his hand,
and his wonders, unnumbered, abound.
I would not bat an eye If he chose to pass by
for he travels unseen, without sound.
If he snatched what is his, would we ask why it is
that we try to sway God with our grief?
He will not put aside his great wrath at the pride
of the helpers of Rahab beneath.
Are there words that make sense if I mount my defense;
for what reason would he even budge?
And although I was right, no, I still wouldn't fight;
only mercy I'd plead from my Judge.
If I summoned him here and he chose to appear,
he'd most likely not let me expound.
I feel crushed and abused, from his tempest I'm bruised,
and he doubles my wounds without ground.
For I'm running to death, barely catching my breath,
overwhelmed and embittered, indeed.
In a test of sheer force, he would win it, of course.
Also justice, so how should I plead?
Though I'm guiltless of blame, still my mouth proves my shame;
though I'm innocent, words become lies.
I am blameless, I swear! Yet, I no longer care,
for I'm living a life I despise.
We're the same in God's sight, whether wrong or we're right
he will grind us all up in his gears.
When disasters arise and the innocent dies
he will mock their despair and their tears.
Now, the wicked's in charge of the world at large
and her judges are blind as can be;
it would be very odd if this wasn't of God,
for who else would forbid them to see?
And my days disappear like a runner in fear,
without happiness — day after day.
Very swiftly life floats like papyrus-made boats,
as an eagle swoops down on its prey.
If I say, l'll forget my complaint, and I set
on my face a big smile or a grin,
I'd still dread all the pain and the weight of its chain
knowing you'll not acquit me my sin.
I'm already condemned? So, there's nothing to mend,
even lye and strong soap can't repair;
you will plunge me, in time, in a deep pit of slime
to be loathed by the clothes that I wear.
No mere mortal is he that he'd answer to me,
where we'd meet one another in court.
Is there not one we trust, who is honest and just,
to be judge, as the final resort?
Who'll remove, then, the rod from the hard hand of God,
with the terror and panic he'll plant.
Then I'd speak without fear for the umpire to hear;
but as things stand right now — I just can't.
There is no arbiter between us
A couple of days ago, I published my poem concerning Job crying out to God and the blog post was not really a blog post — it was just the poem, itself. I received a lot less satisfaction out of that decision than I thought I would. I should be able to come up with at least one anecdote concerning my poems. Else, I should cease the blogs.
It would be interesting for me to know how many readers (or, if anyone) noticed the different styles used for each particular speaker. With today's poem, there have been three characters introduced thus far in the book of Job. And I gave each of them a different voice, or rhyming scheme.
Job sounds like this:
ta ta TUM ta ta birth ta ta TUM ta ta earth
ta ta TUM ta ta TUM ta ta born
ta ta TUM ta ta grieved ta ta TUM ta ta -ceived
ta ta TUM ta ta TUM ta ta scorn
ta TUM ta ta TUM ta distressing
ta TUM ta ta TUM ta ta speak
ta TUM ta ta TUM ta blessing
ta TUM ta ta TUM ta ta weak
And, today Bildad comes to life:
ta TUM ta ta TUM ta ta TUM ta ta blow
ta TUM ta ta TUM ta ta TUM ta ta fro
This wasn't a decision that was made until the second time I wrote from Job's point-of-view. The first of this series was Job. Great. The next two chapters were Eliphaz, and the second style just sort of happened. Great. The next chapter was Job again, and when I first looked at it, I wondered how I was going to proceed. At that point, I first considered each character having their own style.
Before that? It was a free-for-all. Whatever happened — happened. From the initial concept of writing a hodgepodge of various verses per chapter in whatever writing style I wanted has gone out the window!
I think that there are three more characters coming and I hope I can carry this idea to fruition with three more styles. I don't want to get to the point of resorting to some kind of Jabberwocky just to prove a point. So, pigeonholing myself this early in the game might lead to some less-than-desirable consequences as I continue on.
Bildad's First Response to Job
It ain't God . . . it's YOU
based on Job 8
How long will you bluster? How long will you blow?
Like wind, without sense, blasting words to and fro.
Does God bend his justice — however so slight?
Does God the Almighty pervert what is right?
Your children had sinned and God's judgement was served;
receiving God's justice they rightly deserved.
If you would ask God, even now, for his grace;
if your life is pure and you'd fall on your face:
he'd surely rise up on behalf of your fate,
restoring your life to your prosperous state.
Although your beginnings were humble, at best,
you'll find that your future will greatly be blessed.
Inquire of the past what your ancestors learned,
and heed any wisdom your parents discerned.
How smart can we be since just yesterday's birth?
A shadow that fades marks our time on the earth.
Will they not instruct you, their knowledge impart?
And teach you the wisdom and words from their heart?
Papyrus can't flourish without marsh or mire,
and water withheld from the reeds would be dire.
Uncut and in flower they will be the first
to wither more quickly than grass from their thirst.
For such are the ones without God in their lives:
the hope of the godless man never survives.
His confidence, fragile, just hangs by a thread;
he places his trust in a spidery web.
He leans on his web but it cannot withstand;
he tries to hold that which dissolves in his hand.
He's like the lush plant in the sun sprouting roots;
the garden is full of his branches and shoots.
His roots intertwining the stone heap to lock,
and finds there a home in the bed of the rock.
When torn and uprooted, the spot where he grew
disowns him by saying, I never saw you.
Such joy at the end of his life: he's erased,
while others take root and spring up in his place.
Behold, God rejects not the one who is pure,
nor will he let works of the evil endure.
For he will once more give your laughter a voice,
a shout from your lips and a cause to rejoice.
For shame are the clothing your enemies wear,
destroyed are their tents which are no longer there.
But if you will seek God earnestly and plead with the Almighty,
if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf
and restore you to your prosperous state.
Job Cries Out to God
Life is Hard
based on Job 7
Life is hard here on earth and we're working since birth;
do we not live our lives as a slave?
Like one longing for shade or who hopes to be paid;
what is life — but a foot in the grave.
Wasted days, I expend; sleepless nights without end
and my anguish and sorrow go on.
In my bed every night I just wait for the light
as I toss and I turn until dawn.
Maggots cover my flesh and it oozes afresh,
when the scabs and the hard dirt collide.
And my days swiftly zoom like the hand on the loom;
any hope in my future denied.
May I never forget that my life is a breath;
without joy — only pain at my door.
You may notice me here, but I'll soon disappear;
you will seek me but I'll be no more.
As the cloud floating by disappears in the sky,
so the grave won't return those it claims.
For you cannot go home once you're covered with loam,
since your place won't remember your name.
So I will not be hushed, nor my spirit be crushed,
but, I'll bitterly wail from my soul!
I'm the sea churning waves? Or the whale that behaves
like I need to be under control?
And whenever I've said that I long for my bed
to find sleep as a comfort to me;
you come shatter my dreams with such horrible scenes,
and the visions I cannot unsee.
If my fate could be planned, I'd be choked by some hand
for I'd gladly trade this life for death.
How I crave the demise of this life I despise.
Let me be, for my days are a breath.
What are we — why the fuss? Why obsess over us?
Why direct your attention towards man?
Every morning we wake — the first step that we take,
you are there just to test us again.
Can't you leave me alone? I can't spit on my own,
without you or your shadow right there.
If I've sinned, tell me how. Am I targeted now?
Am I known as your burden to bear?
Now, I've not long to live, will you never forgive
my transgressions and sins you abhor?
Very soon I will lay in the grave to decay;
you will seek me but I'll be no more.
Why is life so hard? Why do we suffer?
We are slaves in search of shade; we are laborers longing for our wages.
This is my fourth poem from the Book of Job, covering the sixth chapter. I went back this past week and did a little housekeeping, breaking up last week's long poem into two different poems since they covered two chapters in Job (Job 4-5). And, going forward, I'll write these poems "per chapter".
There isn't much to say concerning this poem. The Lord blessed me again with words and phrasings and I've really enjoyed this period of creativity. If you've read these last few poems without looking at the corresponding passages in Job, you might think I'm off my rocker. But, I think they really do follow the message and the conversations found in Job.
I have no idea if this can be sustained for the entirety of Job. I haven't read ahead to see where the story is going — I'm only aware of vague generalities. I don't even read the chapter that I'm currently writing about, although I probably should! I just start with a clean slate, read a few verses in order to figure out the rhyming scheme, and then keep a few verses in view from parallel sources. I've relied heavily on Bible Hub.
So, in the future, at least for this series, the blog may just be the poem itself — unless there is some interesting anecdote related to the process. And that's what the blogs were for anyway — to describe the process behind the poem. And, in this case, the process has been the same throughout these four poems:
Pray. Meditate. Write. Repeat.
Job's Second Speech: A Response to Eliphaz
With Friends Like These
based on Job 6
If my grief could be laid on the scales to be weighed,
with my troubles — how great would they be?
Its no wonder my words have been rash and absurd —
they'd outweigh all the sand in the sea.
For the arrows that fly from Almighty, Shaddai —
they have pierced me — I'm barely alive;
and the further they sink, the more poison I drink —
oh, my spirit will never survive.
Is the bray of the ass not complaint over grass?
Does the ox without food low to beg?
Would it not be our fault to eat food without salt?
Is there taste in the white of an egg?
But I just cannot eat for its all rotten meat.
And I only ask God one request:
for, in place of my bread, that he'd crush me instead,
then I'd truly at last be at rest.
But there's comfort to gain, for despite all my pain
I have never denied God's commands.
Little strength I have left, of my hope I'm bereft,
as the sands of time pass through my hands.
Is my strength like the stones? Have I rocks for my bones?
Am I covered in bronze as my flesh?
I'm unable to cope, at the end of my rope;
I'm without any hope of success.
But a man who despairs should have one friend who cares,
even if he no longer fears God.
Yet my brothers, it seems, are like seasonal streams,
that are empty but used to be broad
with thick ice in the flow and the melting of snow,
how the banks of the river would fail;
but it all disappears when the dry season nears,
now the river is dry as a trail.
For the Caravans died in their turning aside,
in the sands of the desert they drowned.
And from Tema, they came; and from Sheba, the same:
but the river could never be found.
Disappointed and drained when their confidence waned,
they arrived, but found nothing instead.
Now you've proven to be like those rivers to me,
for my terror has filled you with dread.
Have I asked for myself any thing from your wealth,
or be saved from the hand of my foe?
If you'd teach me, I'd learn; only help me discern
where I've erred, so I finally will know.
There is pain in the truth; what does arguing prove?
What is learned by your statements like these?
Do you mean to correct every word I inflect,
disregard my despair like the breeze?
You would even cast lots for the fatherless tots,
and would sell your own friend in disgrace.
Just one look in my eyes you would then realize
that I never would lie to your face.
Reconsider, good men, reassess me again,
vindication may yet come to light.
Are my lips that unjust? Has my tongue lost your trust?
Do you think I don't know wrong from right?
You would even cast lots for the fatherless and barter away your friend.
Last week (on Wednesday) I posted Job I - Job's First Speech and was pretty excited to do so as I thought it turned out pretty OK. Later that evening, I flew to Florida in order to visit some family. Interestingly, this was the first time in nearly forty years that my parents, my sisters and I were in the SAME state at the same time.
Anyway, last Thursday and Friday was taken up with visiting and no writing took place. Friday night, I couldn't stand it any longer (not writing) and looked at the first few verses of Job 4 to get a feel for things. Like, what sort of rhyming scheme would be the best fit. I wrote down a couple of lines and set the alarm for 5a.
Saturday was a travel day, so I got up at 5a and was able to write 3 solid verses before I left my sister's place. I had a 3-hour drive to see my Dad in southern Florida and was ahead of schedule, so I pulled into a Rest Area on I-95 for an hour and wrote another 3 verses.
Between Sunday and Wednesday, the rest of the verses were written. Some fast and some slow. I'm currently going thru a period of really enjoying the writing process and am wishing I was retired already so that I could write all day long! As it is, I'm writing early and late and anytime I can find in between and its a little overwhelming.
Part of me wants to jump out of Job and move on, but another part wants to keep going to see what happens next. I have no schedule to keep as I am reading thru the Bible, so if I spend the next year stuck in Job — that's alright with me.
When I started thinking about these "Job" poems, I wasn't planning on re-writing every verse into poetry. I anticipated that it would be some highlighted verses in the chapters; the more familiar ones or the ones that really grabbed me. After all, I didn't do that for the first one, Job I - Job's First Speech. There were a few verses that I didn't pick up.
In this one, I realized that I couldn't decide what NOT to use. So, going forward — as long as I'm able to do so — I would anticipate proceeding verse by verse. Which really makes me think about re-doing the first one.
Another thing: in several of my blogs I've included corresponding scripture along with my poems to "show" you the parallels between my writing and the Bible passages. I've decided not to do that for Job and possibly no more — period. It seems like its a little overkill sometimes — and especially with a project like this where most of Job will be set to rhyme.
I've listed the references I'm using and I would hope that if you read a line that I've written and you think — Hmmm, I don't remember the Bible saying anything like that! — then you would open up your Bible and take a look for yourself.
My prayer is that your interest might be piqued enough to take another look at Job and to see it in a new light. I can tell you, I'm seeing Job in a very different light as I write these verses.
Eliphaz's First Response to Job
Based on Job 4-5
Will you find my words too distressing?
Regardless — I really must speak.
For you've been to many a blessing,
and strengthened the hands of the weak.
Your words have upheld those who've stumbled;
encouraged the frail and afraid.
But, now that your world has crumbled,
you're troubled and greatly dismayed.
But have you not feared God and cherished
your hope and your blameless of ways?
Have innocent lives ever perished?
Or righteous lives shortened of days?
I've noticed that those who sow trouble
are those who will harvest the same.
God's breath can turn all things to rubble,
consumed by the blast of his flame.
The lion who's roaring has spoken,
the fierce lion growls as he may;
but teeth of the young cubs lay broken,
while older ones die without prey.
A secret was whispered in silence,
for into my dreams did it creep;
devolving those dreams into violence
when men should be deep in their sleep;
the dread made me tremble and fear it —
my bones rattled once and again.
A breath brushed my face like a spirit,
and all of my hair stood on end.
It stood there before me — this being,
as formless and strange as could be.
Still shocked at the sight I was seeing,
it suddenly whispered to me:
Can man be more righteous and fervent?
Is anyone purer than God?
If God doesn't trust his own servant,
nor messenger he sends abroad,
how much more for those who are living
in houses built simply of dust;
their own fragile frames less forgiving
than moths who are easily crushed!
Announcing, Hello, in the morning;
by evening, unnoticed, Goodbye.
Their tent cords pulled up without warning,
without any wisdom they die.
Cry out, but will anyone answer?
For which of your saints could explain?
Resentment will kill fools like cancer;
from envy the simple are slain.
I've seen a fool's stock start ascending,
when, quickly, his house has been cursed.
His children — in court — need defending,
but none get the ruling reversed.
The hungry consume what he's planted,
though guarded with brambles and stealth.
The thirsty have endlessly panted
and coveted after his wealth.
Affliction springs not from the soil;
from earth, neither trouble nor pain.
Man's born to a lifetime of toil
as surely as sparks from the flame.
For me, I'd appeal to God's wonder
and place my concerns in his hand;
his marvelous deeds without number,
and greatness we can't understand.
He waters the world's four corners,
sends water down into the field.
He lifts the disgraced and the mourners
and covers their pain with his shield.
He frustrates the plots of the scheming,
defeating the work of their hands.
He catches the wise in their dreaming,
while quickly destroying their plans.
Their days will be dark and they'll stagger,
like groping as midnight — at noon.
He rescues the poor from the dagger:
the slander the mighty impugn.
There's hope for the poor and neglected;
when jaws of injustice are barred.
How blessed are those God's corrected;
endeavor when he makes life hard.
He wounds, still his arms can surround you;
he strikes, yet his hands make you whole.
Six hardships, but none will confound you;
in seven, he'll safeguard your soul.
In famine, he'll keep you from dying;
in battle, the tip of the spear.
He'll hide you from tongues that are lying;
when facing destruction, no fear.
You'll snicker at drought and disaster;
of beasts in the wild, unafraid.
Communing with stones in the pasture
and animals, peace will be made.
Your tent will be solid and steady,
possessions will be safe and sound.
Your offspring — you know will be many,
descendants like grass on the ground.
You'll come to your graveside full-seasoned,
as ripe as the harvested sheave.
For, these are the facts and well-reasoned.
So, listen to me and believe.
Something happened this past weekend that I cannot quite explain. I told my wife that I felt "possessed" — but "obsessed" might be the better term.
Last Friday, I posted The Blessing which I had worked on for the better part of two weeks. The writing took somewhat less, but from concept to publication was thirteen days. As mentioned, that was posted on Friday. Since I can only concentrate on one poem at a time, I felt "released" to look ahead to the next one.
On Saturday, I had decided to write on Job 3 but didn't have any real chance to sit down and write. I had glanced at the first few verses a couple of times and the first line was sort of formulating in my mind Saturday night. I woke up on Sunday morning shortly after six (without the alarm) and was eager to get into it.
I wrote the first line as it is, but I thought, no no no, this cannot be. I do not want to write lines with internal rhyming — it's too hard. And the payoff might not be there. But nothing else I tried to write sounded as good, so I thought I would try to see how far I could take it.
And the words just came forth. By the time I got ready for church — I had 4 or 5 verses written. Church, lunch, Walmart, nap — then I was back at the PC. And the rest of it was written by dinner! I couldn't believe it.
Even now, I went to bed and was too excited to sleep; got up to tweak it into its present form. Now, it's nearly 3a and I'm starting to think: uh oh, I've got to go to work in a few hours!
The Book of Job is part of the Poetic section of the Bible — and with good reason! Its a beautiful read. I've never spent any time in it and reading it now is a great experience.
The title of this poem was created in such a manner whereby I could write other poems concerning Job and his friends. So, the next one in line would be Job II - Eliphaz's First Response to Job, then Job III - Job's Second Speech: A Response to Eliphaz, etc. By my count, there are 25 or more distinct speeches found in Job.
But, if this is the only poem I ever pen concerning Job, then I reserve the right to change the title to Job's Lament.
Job's First Speech
Based on Job 3
Let the day of my birth disappear from the earth;
how I wish I had never been born!
You don't know how I'm grieved that my mother conceived,
and I hold my conception in scorn.
May that morning be dark and the dawning embark
without light as if God doesn't care.
Let the gloom, like a cloud, and the darkness enshroud
that sad day like it never was there.
Let that day disappear from the calendar year,
and the months skip that digit for spite;
it would silence their voice — any chance to rejoice —
if the world could be barren that night.
Given time to rehearse, let the experts who curse
raise Leviathan — cursing away.
Let the stars turn their back and the twilight go black
and the morning ignore the new day.
But my own mother's womb had refused me a tomb
so I breathed in my very first breath.
Why'd I lay in her lap? Why'd I suck at her pap?
Why'd I choose to live life over death?
If I'd died there somehow I'd be resting right now
with the kings and the princes of old,
in the houses they've built and their palaces filled
with their treasures of silver and gold.
For in death troubles cease and the weary find peace
and the captives and guards are the same;
and you cannot tell which are the poor or the rich,
and the master of slaves has no claim.
Why does God give a light to a man without sight
and a life to the bitter of soul?
For he digs in the ground beyond treasure he's found,
as he seeks for the grave in the hole.
Now my sighing is great at the sight of my plate
and my crying pours out like the sea;
for the thing I most fear is now actually here
and I dread what has happened to me.
Let the day of my birth be erased, and the night I was conceived.