Girding Job's loins


Mrs Job

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job;
And he was essentially a blameless dude, and unarrogant,
And he was blessed with seven sons, and three daughters,
Which is a startling number of children, and where is the
Part of the Book of Job where we talk about Job's spouse,
Who is conspicuously not discussed in the back and forth
With his buddies and then suddenly the Big Guy Himself,
Answering out of the whirlwind and commanding old Job
To gird up his loins, which his loins were almighty active
Previous to the Lord interrupting Job, and after the Maker
Finishes one of the greatest eloquent scoldings of all time,
He grants old Job another seven sons and three daughters,
Again without the slightest thanks for the astounding Mrs
Job who suddenly has twenty count them twenty children
With no mention of her humor, or the vast hills of diapers,
Or her wit which survived kids throwing up and the sheep
Wandering off, and plagues of locusts and things like that.
A good editor, I feel, would have asked for just a glancing
Nod to the wry hero of the tale, at least acknowledgement;
Something like a new last line after So Job died, being old
and full of days, which might read And also passed a most
Amazing woman, of whom nothing other than the blessing
Was ever said, her heart being a gift beyond calculation by
Man, her mind sharp, her tongue gentle, her hands a mercy,
And her very presence full reason to kneel in prayer at that
Which the Lord in His mercy has made and granted briefly.
A line like that would only hint at her, but it's a start, right?

The cross

Probably an olive or acacia, as far as scholars can determine.
Of course there are scholars who have poked into the matter.
The Roman Empire sensibly used the most accessible wood.
Me personally I would bet on the acacia which grows bigger
And broader and quicker than olive. You wonder if someone
Grew them for just this use. A market niche with an imperial
Budget, who could argue with that as a business model? Not
To mention the excellent public relations aspects of assisting
The mills of justice, the civic equilibrium, the battles against
Criminals and radicals. Imagine it: an acacia grows in Judea,
Let's say in Ashkelon, near the sea. It is harvested at twenty,
Planed with its brothers, and trundled to Jerusalem. The load
Is stamped and recorded, bills of sale and receipts are issued,
A few of the timbers are mysteriously lost in transit and filed
As cost of business, and one ends up on Golgotha — the Skull.
Poor creature, remembered only for its last burden. But recall
The birds it housed, the birds it sensed whizzing past — deror,
The swallows and swifts, the small gleaming knives in flight,
And selaw, the quail in their vast flocks, carpeting the acacias
In October like feathery jackets, and anafas, the patient heron,
And hasidah the stork and larus the gull and nesher the eagle,
And certainly yonah, the dove. Imagine our acacia held seven
Dove nests in its twenty years. Imagine the gentle burbling of
Chicks is the last music it remembered as the axe bit. Imagine
It never knew or imagined the gaunt being it held at the finish.
Poor thing, remembered for what it never knew it was bent to;
But celebrated quietly this morning, as another young life lost. 

The Seven Deadly Sins

Wrath! Lord, what a place to start! Couldn’t we start slowly, with sloth?
But no. I was wroth against the Church in which I was raised, yes, I was,
Until I realized that there is no Church, there is only slimy or graceful us.
Greed? Ah, well, yes, but not for money; more for affection and effusive
Praise, maybe. I wanted to be applauded so that I could pretend to duck;
It was always far more comfortable to deflect that which you would have
Been angry not getting the chance to pretend to deflect. Ah, wrath again!
This is hard. And sloth? I suspect I am so afraid of my tendency that way
That I work furiously to not leave myself the chance – and what I call my
Meditative state, dozing in the fat sun, not actually reading at all, is really
Sloth, disguised as the soil for art. You wonder how lazy artists really are.
Pride, not so much. A sigh of euphoria followed by gimlet-eyed certainty
That I am egregiously behind in my appointed rounds and tasks, as usual.
Lust…  let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that the balancing act between
Mammalian euphoria and the spicy chess game that is love expressed is a
Project unending. Wipe that grin off your face. If you were scribbling this
Proem you would have to confess that you know all too well what I mean.
Envy…  not so much. When I was young I was envious of folks who had,
Or seemed to have, bigger gifts, but maybe sooner than most I discovered
That most gifts are illusions and that even great gifts have awesome prices,
Which made me very thankful for my small gifts and a chance to use them.
And finally, puffing along at the end of the road, complaining vociferously
About being last, good old gluttony. We usually think about this foodishly,
But I have come to think it is really the unwillingness (or perhaps inability)
To stop rolling in the things that give you the most pleasure. And I concede
That properly understood it is a sad and ugly thing – sex, wine, mayonnaise,
Whatever it is that floats your selfish boat; for like all sins its essential bone
Is elevating the self above where selves should be, which is quiet and awed.
But who among us is without sin and can throw that first stone, as the silent
Rabbi draws with his finger in the sand? Not me. Let’s not even get into the
Venials, such a motley and lengthy parade. But I will admit, here at the end,
To absolutely unrepentant gluttony in the matter of three children the Rabbi
Handed us some years ago. If relishing every instant with them is any brand
Of sin, then never was there such a thrilled and gleeful sinner as yours truly.


Brian DoyleBrian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland. 

Topic tags: new australian poems, Brian Doyle, Qu'ran, Islam



submit a comment

Existing comments

Balm for the soul and an awakening. See touch, feel, the world through an artist's eyes at the start of a new day. And yes, rejoice in the gluttony of children and the even greater gluttony of grandchildren. How blest was Mrs Job!
Anna C North Avoca | 15 November 2011

Brian just loved these especially the hoy to Mrs Job. You really have to search for the women but they are there and our imaginations are wonderful tools.
jorie | 15 November 2011

These proems were JUST what I needed today! I think we would all be lucky if more folks expressed themselves like our friend Brian Doyle does - if only people would just say what they think, crazy idea, right? Anyway, it is always a pleasure to read your work - I'm always better for it!
beth | 15 November 2011

Reading Mrs Job, smiling and thinking "How does he do this?"

What a great way to start my day. Thank you.
ErikH | 15 November 2011


Subscribe for more stories like this.

Free sign-up