Friday, May 04, 2007

Jonah's Story

The last post has me thinking about Jonah, one of my favorite stories from the Old Testament. Here, in part, is how Jonah is explained in the New Oxford Annotated Bible: "The book of Jonah is unique among the prophetic books. It contains no collections of oracles in verse against Israel and foreign nations, but presents a prose narrative about the prophet himself. Instead of portraying a prophet who is an obedient servant of the Lord, calling his people to repentence, it features a recalcitrant prophet who flees from his mission and sulks when his hearers repent."

This poem is from my first book, Holding Down the Earth (Sky Books, 1995).


So I was tossed over and eaten. Gobbled. Scarfed.
Munched. Snacked on. Picked at. Pecked down.
Gorped. Wolfed. Blimped out upon. Inhaled.
Swallowed whole. Bolted. Noshed. Gummed.
Chewed. Tucked away. Yammed. Laid out
in the trough. Piggled up. Put in the feedbag.
Eaten high on the hog. Eaten out of house and home.
Eaten like it was going out of style. Knocked back.
Eaten like there was no tomorrow. Polished off.
Chowed down. Consumed. Ingested. Dispatched.
Feasted upon. Nibbled at. Masticated. Gulped.
Swabbled. Yum yum, eaten up. Eaten for breakfast.
Eaten for lunch. Eaten as a tasty dinner. Eaten
as a midnight snack. Garnished with kelp
and eaten so thoroughly, there was nothing of me
left. Days later they found me, gasping on the beach,
wild eyed and stinking of fish vomit, spreading my arms
so wide, my motions told them nothing. So I crawled off
to Nineveh, ready to deliver his message. I'm telling you,
my sign is the sign the candlefish makes, swirling
toward the shore. Feeding my Leviathan
is not an easy task.

Note: The painting is Jonah (1885) by Albert Pinkham Ryder.
It is in the collection of the National Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.


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