19 December 2015

Job's Daughters: Beauty from Ashes

Job 42:10-15

"He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers." (Job 42:14-15)

I grow from the dust of memories,
shadows that went before me,
the brothers and sisters I never knew.
I rise from the ashes of yesterday,
a new beginning after suffering and death,
a new morning that rises again.
I pour out sweet from the cup of bitterness,
a balm to comfort your tormented soul,
adorning your days of old age.

Sometimes I live
as though they did not,
forgetting that we
are not your only family.
Then I remember:
I am dancing on a grave
and there are still cracks
in your mended heart.

I cannot replace them,
the faces and voices
that still haunt your dreams.
I cannot fill the empty spaces
in our home and in your heart,
cannot drive out the memories
or undo the past.

But, precious father, I will try
to relieve your pain by giving you joy.
I will pour my love on you
and be somebody you can love
and tell your story to.
I cannot replace what you have lost,
but I can help you find purpose again,
raising beauty from the ashes,
letting life begin anew.


[18. December 2015]

I based the first stanza on the meaning of the names: Jemimah means "dove" ("I rise from the ashes" - more the image of a phoenix but it is a bird...), Keziah means "cassia" ("I grow from the dust" - growing plant), Keren-happuch means "horn of antimony", antimony being a cosmetic. So yes, I'm taking a short-cut again and writing one poem for three girls, but I think it worked well this way...

I wrote this thinking about how on the one hand Jemimah, Keziah and Keren-happuch (and their brothers) were a new beginning for Job, while on the other hand they could never be a replacement for the sons and daughters he had lost. I imagine it would be odd, knowing that before one was even born, one's father had a different life, another family, which no longer exists and one can never get to know. Hence "dancing on a grave"...

I find William Blake's picture of Job and his daughters (above) very interesting (and very well thought-out): in the background, it shows Job's losses. So I think it fits really well to this poem. Things go well for Job in the end, and he receives a lot of comfort, not least through his daughters. But the past can't be undone. Still, that doesn't mean things remain dark and hopeless. Job has a chance to enjoy what he has now, and though it does not take away completely the pain of his loss, I think his new family does relieve the pain, giving him something new to live for, encouraging him again.

Job's wife's poem is here.

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