Not the Apochrypha


Joanne Lehman

Not the Apochrypha

The stories Sunday school teachers don't tell
are the ones about Samson-how he
tied the tails of foxes together and
set them on fire to create a whirling
dervish of his own. Not mentioned
the time he dug wild honey out of a rotting lion
and took it home to his parents
for supper.

They never tell
how God commanded Jeremiah
to bury his underwear and dig it up later
or how David lounged on the palace porch
with binoculars, wearing only a loin cloth,
to watch Bathsheba
sunbathe nude on her roof.

They didn't tell us where to read
about youthful nipples
that look exactly like the faces
of twin deer-a pretty accurate
picture if you'd had any
experience to compare it with.
They didn't want us to imagine
the curve of a thigh, breasts
heavy as coconuts, the navel
a goblet from which lovers drank
in biblical vineyards at midnight.

And no one mentioned how Noah
got smashed and exposed himself
to his family almost as soon as he could
ferment the wild grapes he cultivated
in the wet field just to the northeast
of the ark where they were living at the time.
We were never introduced to Onan,
the rowdy, pig-headed character
who spilled his seed on the ground.

We're not talking agriculture here. Prostitutes
who sent men over the wall-and
down red bed sheets to safety.
Goliath's hair entwined
in David's fingers. John the Baptist's head
glassy-eyed on a platter, as if even he couldn't miss
the lurid dance of Saalom.

And what about Isaac, bound and gagged,
with his father's knife held to his throat?
-But many doors of history hinge on a father
pondering his own son's execution.


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