By David Denny - Cupertino, California, USA - 27 February 2013
I set up camp east of Nineveh
on a hill overlooking the great city.
There I waited for fire and smoke.
I waited for an army to lay siege,
for an earthquake to lay flat
the walls, or a plague to empty
the streets and markets and temples.
Nothing happened. Not one thing.
And so I am a false prophet.
Why, O Lord, have you hauled me
through the guts of a great fish,
spat me back out and nursed me,
strengthened me to deliver
your final warning?—and then
nothing. Not even a mild breeze
has been lifted against our enemy.
You have opened your fist and held
up your palm as one who surrenders.
Answer me: Should evil go unpunished?
I was your obedient prophet of doom!
You raised me up to foretell your fury:
Nineveh, that open, festering sore,
that stinking pit of rotting meat,
haven of thieves and slave-traders,
sanctuary to those who flaunt your laws—
Nineveh, womb of terror and violence,
forgers of spears that pierce your heart.
For generations Israel has sung
your praises, loved your statutes,
worn your word upon our foreheads
and forearms, sacrificed firstfruits,
consecrated its children to you.
Is this how you reward us—with mercy
as cheap as the harlot in the window?
For this reason I turned my back to you.
For this reason I set my sights on Tarshish.
As I was once swallowed by death,
I now find myself consumed by anger.
I would rather die than return to Israel.
You should have left me to rot
in the belly of Sheol, my hair wrapped
in weeds, my feet tangled among roots.
Any old fool could have spoken
your hollow cry of judgment.
It's plain to see that any old fool did.
I watched you stalk from the city and perch
yourself upon that lonely hill to the east; like Cain,
you must decide whether your anger will
drive you to my bosom or to Nod, to Tarshish.
I see you digging your heels into the soil,
blood rising in your cheeks and forehead.
That hasty shelter you have fashioned, my dove,
will not shade you well enough, for
the real heat of the day comes from within.
Is it right for you to burn this way? To snort and
stamp like the bulls of Bashan? Where were you
when the Tigris began to flow? Where were you
when the walls of Nineveh were hoisted toward the sky?
And where were you when Sennacherib's father
taught him to pull crocodiles from the bulrushes?
To stalk Gazelles with only a bow and arrow?
Do you not know that the judgment you wish
for others may just as well fall upon yourself?
I am the God who breathes life into dust.
I accompanied my people through forty years
in the wilderness of Sinai. I chose David
to be king in an everlasting covenant.
I brought you through three days and nights
in the belly of Sheol so that you might
bear the message that saved 120,000
who didn't know their left hand from their right.
I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy.