Her velvet sleeves lay motionless
And limp against the scarlet dress.
A half-said word hung still and thin
Between her frozen lips, and in
The distance she could hear the screams
Of men whose adolescent dreams
She metamorphosed into sin
Converting fantasy to skin.
No blinking now from bark-brown eyes,
But only blankness, while the skies
Above the city fill with smoke
From burning wives who used to stoke
The supper stove and wait for men
Who didn’t come, allured again
By Rahab to the harlot’s bed,
They’d sworn to see her dead.
But now, as always, there she stood,
As far from burning as she could,
And thought about a thousand nights
When she had watched the flames and flights
Of passion in her patron’s play,
But kept her heart a mile away.
She watched until the sun went down
And all of Jericho’s renown
Blew southward to the Salted Sea.
Then terrified and fearfully
She fell and spread her hands and face
Upon the ground, and to abase
Herself she scooped the dust and dirt
And threw it on her head and skirt
Until the last of strength was gone,
And then she wept until the dawn,
And choked out words repeatedly:
“Why was I spared? Why me? Why me?”
At dawn she heard a Jewish voice:
“Tis good to weep and not rejoice;
The sorrow first and then the song,”
The words of Joshua were strong.
“Now rise and go down to the stream,
And make you clean this is no dream!
The answer to your cry, ‘Why me?’:
The God of Abraham is free.
His sun is rising in the east,
The priests have made for us a feast.
Go, make you clean and come with me;
There is another way to be.”
So Rahab made her face to shine
And took her place before the shrine.
And thus may God make all things new
As we light advent candle two.