Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Angel of Gilgal

Daniel, shepherd John's big-footed young son,
climbed the hillside out of the mist.
"Samuel," he shouts, "an Angel has come to Gilgal."

I was grazing my goats east of the pass
near town. It was kidding and a misery of work.
I was in no mood for nonsense.
What nonsense could the town folk be up to now?

"The angel said that we must make enemies
of the inhabitants of this land,
and that we must throw down their alters."

"Let the weeds throw them down," I said.
"And, don't tell me what other people saw,
tell me what you saw, Daniel."

"It was a pale light low over the people's heads,
not a strong light, not like the sun.
He spoke clearly, not in a big voice, but a mild soft voice,
and hoarse, as if speaking was unnatural.
But a flimsy looking figure;
as the sun was breaking through the mist,
his garments fluttered, and he made himself
look small to be against sunlight.
But they were all weeping at the sight,
walking all the way to Bochim.
And it's a good ways back, too."

"I'm afraid to ask, what had they been doing?"

"Worshiping in the poles in the trees.
That's why they were weeping.
They had done evil among the poles."

"You were not with them?"

"They speak so interestingly of arcane subjects,
and look, God has rewarded them with a sign!
They say this figure of a sweet light
will come down and stay with them
to watch over and protect them and warm them
when they are cold, and make life lighter."

"Daniel, your father has not given you work enough.
There is much work to do this time of year.
Go back to your father
and set yourself to your work.
You will suffer more than you know
to think as they do, and fall into such bad habits."

"I cannot help it," said Daniel. "I can't stop.
Come down with me to see for yourself."

"As if I won't hear enough of this all
my days. Whether true or a lie. Daniel,
go back to your people, and stray no more
till you are through with this. Go!"

"But it would be such a precious sight to think on.
An angel of the Lord come down!"

Having just kidded, a doe's throat rattle death.
The kids were huddled, big-eyed against the cold.
When is there ever the right time?
I covered them with hay and shreds of blanket,
laid them in a low spot under the harsh wind.
Seemed that the sky was brightening.
And I went down to see for myself.

Such was what I saw.
How could those frail wings stop our enemies' arrows,
such diaphanous nothing lighten our burden?
Then the sky opened, and the mist went away
and the sky was full of light,
and in the lilting evening we sacrificed.

The return was in a haze of sorrow.
All that was sacred abandoned us.
We were thus sick with darkness.
In our despair was profligacy in the poles
and giving way to fabulous rituals.
There was much I told no one.

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