Stones

By Rachel Beitsch

“That this may be a sign among you, [that] when your children ask [their fathers] in time to come, saying, What [mean] ye by these stones?” (Joshua 4:6)

Joshua,
man of monuments,
set stones by the river
to mark its depth
in the people’s land.
God, you see,
sliced the waters open,
and left the bottom dry,
but who would recall,
many children later,
what prefaced a pile of
manmade slate
that the waters of Jordan were cut off
before the ark of the covenant,
or that the Lord your God dried up
the waters of Jordan
before you,
as He did
at the Red Sea?
And what of kings,
strung for a day
before a generation,
then buried in boulders
who would remember
the moldering face
that, the rabbis say,
was too like the King’s own
and could not stay?

Joshua,
the prodigal moon,
etched a moment in history
and halted the sun
above Gibeon.
God, you see,
hearkened unto the voice of a man,
and the unaccounted book of Jasher
and Israel
bore witness.
Who would know,
but for these words
for no stone stands
at Gibeon or Ajalon,
and the world rolls on.

Joshua,
executor of God’s will,
said to Israel,
you cannot serve the Lord
you will forget
that He took you out of Egypt,
split the seas,
and slew your enemies,
and that you have made a vow.
O, accursed is he who raises
the hewn walls of Jericho
he, too, shall have no legacy!

And yet,
they say they will.
Israel, you mark me not –
have you learned nothing all my life?
Witness you
but here shall be a testament.

Joshua,
man of monuments,
set words in stone
beside oaken roots
that cradled strata,
knew how long
they would remember.

Rock of Ages,
once my bones, unmarked,
have joined those of
Eleazar and Joseph,
I have only this:
a tome
that bears my name.

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Filed under Issue 1, Poetry

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