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Saturday, September 27, 2008


by Esther Greenleaf Murer

(Jeremiah 28:1-17 )

Jeremiah wore a wooden yoke
around his neck, made of the stoutest oak.
"Babylon will hold in thrall our folk
     for years to come."

Hananiah said to him, "Our men
will be in Babylon and out again,
victorious, before you count to ten.
     It'll be a romp."

Said Jeremiah, "When we no longer pour
men and money into this foreign war,
when we depend on our own might no more,
     I'll know you're right."

Then stepped Hananiah up and broke
from Jeremiah's neck the wooden yoke,
and cock-a-hoop these gloating words he spoke:
     "Mission accomplished!"

Jeremiah held himself in check
and went away awhile. When he came back
he had an iron yoke around his neck.
     Told Hananiah:

"You have broken off the yoke of wood,
but now we'll wear a yoke of iron for good,
sending our riches and our livelihood
     to Babylon.

"You have condemned this nation by your lie
to endless servitude. I prophesy
that before the year is out you'll die,
     your name accursed."

And sure enough, as Jeremiah swore,
Hananiah died and was no more,
He left behind a greedy, pointless war—
     his country ruined.

And did the people mend their wanton ways
And listen to Jeremiah all their days?
What happened next? Well, that's another phase,
     another story.

Esther Greenleaf Murer lives in Philadelphia. In addition to New Verse News, her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Externalist, The Ghazal Page, Mimesis, Light Quarterly, and Town Creek Poetry.