The morning after Job had lost
His children and his wealth, he crossed
The half-plowed pasture to the east,
And made his way once more as priest
And father, to the altar on
The the distant hill where he had gone
A hundred times at dawn to pray
And sacrifice the lamb, and lay
His hands upon the head of that
Poor sheep, and by its blood combat
The sin of all his sons. From where
Job stood beside the altar there
At dawn this time, he saw across
The valley to the east the loss
Of all his earthly dreams — the home
Of Zachan, like a catacomb
Up-heaved from some dark cave,
And broken like an open grave
Where all his buried children lay.
His hands hung limp beside the gray
Blood-splattered stone. And then he knelt
And said, "O God, what you have dealt
Me in this murky day is not
What I had thought this bloody, blot-
Red stone would bring. Did I not pray
And sacrifice my lambs, and say
With sacred oath upon my life:
'Far better I should take this knife
And mingle lamb's blood with my own
Than put my children on this stone'?
But now what do I see below,
But servants climbing to and fro
Like ants on rubble foraging
For lifeless sons.
O God, I cling
With feeble fingers to the ledge
Of your great grace, yet feel the wedge
Of this calamity struck hard
Between my chest and this deep-scarred
And granite precipice of love.
But I do fear the fingers of
My wife are not so strong, to hear
When she comes home, that every dear
And precious child she bore is dead.
Therefore, O God, once more, I shed
The blood of this lamb to atone
For her upon my killing stone.
I bow before you in the dust:
Have mercy to preserve her trust."
"They said that I would find you here.
What's wrong, Job? There's an eerie fear
On all their faces. Why are you
Here offering today? You do
This pri'r to Zachan's feast, I thought,
And that was yesterday. I brought
Him raisins from the river vines.
He told me they're the only kinds
He likes. And they won't grow down by
The . . ." Dinah stopped and fixed her eye
Where Zachan's great estate had stood.
"O God . . . what in the name . . . Job, would
You please tell me what's going on!
What happened to that house? It's gone.
Where's Zachan, Job? And why were my
Three girls not waiting for me by
The gate when I came home today
The way they always do? Job, say
What you must say." Job said, "I fear
To speak what you might die to hear;
Or worse, might, hearing, live and curse.
O that I had time to rehearse
Some wise and gentle way to tell
You what we lost when that house fell."
Dawn broke, blood-red along the brink
Of earth and heav'n; and scarlet ink
Spilled upwards on the grey-blue shroud
Above the land of Uz. Job bowed
His head and gave way to great sobs.
He'd seen this sky before: "It robs,"
He thought, "like some celestial thief
Who thinks to gain by bringing grief,
And stealing what he cannot use,
Unless it bless him just to bruise.
God crush you, bloody messenger
Of pain! And, by my God, leave her
Alone. If one must suffer here
Still more, pluck on this flesh, and smear
My face with gall, and take my life,
But stay, and do not touch my wife."
These were his thoughts as they embraced,
Who knows how long. (There is no haste
In grief.) "Job." "Yes, Dinah?" "You know,
It was a long, long time ago
That you held me this way — so long
And tight, and without sex, and strong.
I might survive if you would stay
And hold me like this every day."
Job smiled and loosed his hold. But when
He tried to look at her again,
She gasped and pulled away. Job's face
Was full of sores, and every trace
Of healthy skin was reddening
Before her eyes. And then the sting
Began, and itching. Soon the pus
Was formed, and every sore was thus
A putrid fountain of a dread
And wormy oozing. Dinah fled,
And left Job standing in his plague
Alone. Within an hour one leg,
And then the other, flamed with the
Disease. The servants came to see,
And brought him food, but never got
Too close. He took the ashes hot
From off the altar where the sheep
Had burned, and rubbed them in, to keep
The itching down. And then he dashed
His pot and with a shard he gashed
The biggest boils and let them bleed,
Like scarlet ink with earthen reed
To write his woes on parchment, grey
And ashen, like the sky.
Was like a hundred years. At dusk
His wife returned. And she was brusque
And cool. "Do you still cling to God?"
She asked. And saw his wordless nod.
"I think you are a fool. How much
From him will you endure 'til such
A love as this from God, the Great,
Is seen to be a form of hate?
Here's my advice for you to try:
Curse God, tonight, and die. And I
Will follow soon — a widow robbed
Of everything." And Dinah sobbed.
And tears ran down Job's horrid face.
He pulled himself up from his place,
And by some power of grace, he stood
Beside his wife and said, "I would,
No doubt, in your place feel the same.
But, wife, I cannot curse the name
that never treated me unfair,
And just this day has answered prayer."
"What prayer? What did you bid him do?"
"That I should bear this pain not you.
O Dinah, do not speak like those
Who cannot see, because they close
Their eyes, and say there is no God,
Or fault him when he plies the rod.
It is no sin to say, my love,
That bliss and pain come from above.
And if we do not understand
Some dreadful stroke from his left hand,
Then we must wait and trust and see.
O Dinah, would you wait with me?"
"I'll try," she said, "I didn't mean
That you should die. I'm more unclean
Than you with all your sores. Is there
Some evidence that God could care
For such as me?" Job touched her hair:
"You are another answered prayer."
This candle two gives little light,
And does not make the darkness bright.
But keep it lit and you will find:
Far better this than being blind.
One little flame when all is night,
Proves there is such a thing as light.
One answered prayer when all is gone,
Will give you hope to wait for dawn.