Marvin Lurie

Mordecai ben Aryeh (2020)

We came down from the hills,
rested in the shade of a pine forest,
all six hundred of our company.
I stayed to the side of the group,
still wary of these rebels and outcasts
who had taken me in
and their captain with his glowing eyes
and powerful voice.
They said he would be a king.
I was just a wanderer and, to be honest,
often a thief, who lived off the land,
orchards and vineyards of scattered farms
and my father's relatives
who might feed me and let me sleep in a shed
as long as I was gone before dawn.
My father's family were great  merchants
who traded olive oil, wool and jewelry
as far away as Egypt. But he died when I was born.

My mother and I lived with her parents.
My grandfather, Jacob, was a small farmer
with some sheep, goats, olive trees and grape vines.
He made wine and olive oil to trade.
When I was able to sit up and hold on
he put me on his old she ass
and we followed him all day as he worked.
I grew and became strong.
He taught me to cut the vines so the best grapes would grow,
to milk goats for the sour milk my grandmother made
to turn the press for olive oil.
When he became frail I killed and cut up goats for our meat,
walked with him to villages with his wine and olive oil.
He wasted and died before I came of age,
my first death -- my only friend, my protector.
I ran crying and shouting his name through the hills and fields
where we had worked side by side
wanting no one but him
until neighbors found me and carried me home.

Everything was sold.
We moved to the house of my mother's brother,
who was a scribe in a big village, and my aunt
who did not like my farmer's language and habits.
She corrected and belittled me and everything she said
was like scorn for my grandfather.

I ran the old hills again and the roads we walked
until one day I didn't come back and lived running wild.
I was found by this renegade militia
who only cared that I was big enough to carry a sword.
Now in the shade of the pine trees we waited for our scouts.
They came saying the rich farmer Nabal
would not supply us with food
even though we had protected his flocks.
We ran with our swords and spears in our hands
to attack the farmer's property until we saw coming on the road
the farmer's wife riding an ass leading others loaded with baskets
of wine, bread, sheep meat, parched corn and fig and raisin cakes.
We would be fed and not have to raid today.



















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