Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Mrs Jonah: A Carol Ann Duffy Poem

This night we wait. Sheltering from the falling fire
or the dark angels, as it might be, that the Lord
held over Ninevah, circling, their sound the repeating
chatter of stones, boulder-rolling oblivion, the old
thunder, over and over, again, overhead.
Fine reward for loyalty, if the stones do not fall, what
use the warning. What use our travels.

For this we had travelled, but not directly,
Rather fearful that the Ninevahites would put us, both,
to death for preaching out their fate, we went
half-robed, hurriedly packed, sea-sick, and arguing
to Jaffa and by ship to Tarshish. My husband
Amittai’s son – the truth! – importuning sailors’ company
Anything rather than talk to me.

Without even a storm for an excuse,
preferring my favours they threw him to the sea froth.
What could I do but jump after. They were Ill-favoured men
from Nod, the ship rotten-boarded, unlikely to make landfall.

Speak not to me of fish. I couldn’t eat them now,
Not after that: long gulping sea-monster swallow into
The grey fleshed dark. Too initimate that place for husband
And wife; too intimate for body and soul.
Three days in the live-grave.
He says, he is sure God will portend much by this, make
Lessons of this for future Prophets.
I knit furiously by touch, taking care to jab him with the needles.

Then brought up at the sea-side, we came to Nineveh afterall.
Fish beached like a lost inflatable attraction,
Adrift from it’s moorings.
Only to spout (like the fish did) warnings easily heeded.
Without even the comfort of a fireful revenge.

Simon BJ [Post for Saturday 2nd May 2009]

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