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by James Vasquez
I lived midst all my people long,
I knew them very well,
Among them cousins, uncles and,
My aunts were found to dwell.
Yes, truly I was one with them,
One stock and breed were we,
And yet there was a difference, too,
I'd always known to be.
From time to time my choices had,
Quite set apart my life,
Which put at odds my ways from theirs,
And caused a bit of strife.
A light shone on my path and I,
Believed it was from God,
And as I walked within that light,
A better path I trod.
But efforts were in vain, it seemed,
To catch my brethren's ear,
My urgings went unheeded and,
Caused none to doubt or fear.
And so in solitude I walked,
Alone with God those years,
And comfort sought with wife and sons,
And prayed to Him who hears.
And then one day God spoke to me,
A judgment had been made,
An end to all mankind was due,
His hand would not be stayed.
"I've known their evil thoughts and ways,
And grieved I am and pained,
And so corrupt I've found their lives,
A new race I've ordained.
"Now make an ark of cypress wood,
An ample, sturdy ark,
Sufficient for your family,
In which you will embark.
"A rain I'm sending that shall be,
Far greater than the worst,
And all the fountains of the deep,
Shall then their confines burst.
"And you alone I find this day,
To be a righteous man,
My covenant with you I'll make,
And those within your clan."
So God gave me instructions which,
I'd follow carefully,
And from that moment it was clear,
A massive ark it'd be.
For in addition to my sons,
Their spouses and my wife,
We were to gather animals,
And every form of life.
And so we set ourselves to build,
Just as God had ordained,
Determined that the task would be,
Complete before it rained.
We gathered all the timber 'round,
The pitch and wooden nails,
So thankful for this well-known fact,
An ark does not have sails.
And people wondered at the sight,
There was no lake close by,
As day by day the ark took form.
On land so firm and dry.
There was a time they thought me odd,
But that was not so bad,
The day soon came when one and all,
They said I was quite mad.
And for my part I took the time,
And to their towns would go,
To urge them all to heed their ways,
And some repentance show.
But, sadly, I returned each time,
A bit more bowed and bent,
And ever more convinced that God,
Was right in His judgment.
It took us years, my sons and me,
To build that mighty boat,
Great care we took in every way,
Assuring it would float.
And all the while I heard those chants,
"Old man you've lost your mind,
The ocean that you're looking for,
You'll not in this place find!"
And there were times my sons had doubts,
This caused my greatest pain,
We'd talk about the Voice that came,
And then they found me sane.
And so we built, and so they mocked,
With curses vile and raw,
We answered not unless it was,
With hammer, nail and saw.
And then there was a time or two,
When yet another voice,
Proposed I'd misinterpreted,
And made a foolish choice.
Perhaps I'd had a dream, it said,
And merely thought I'd heard,
This stuff about an ark and such,
Which really was absurd.
"Your family's suffering," it said,
"You're bringing ridicule,
So why not stop this lunacy,
And acting like a fool?
"Just back off, now, and let them know,
You've thought things o'er a while,
And stop this constant hammering,
And watch the people smile."
But then I asked myself again,
Did God sure speak to me,
About His people and a flood,
About His harsh decree?
And then I knew beyond a doubt,
The Voice that spoke to me,
Was that same light which all my life,
Had guided faithfully.
And so I was renewed each time,
Those fearful doubts arose,
And to my task I gave myself,
From dawn of day to close.
Now, toward the end that ark we built,
In all its breadth and height,
Drew people from most distant lands,
To view the crazy sight.
Or was it that they came to see,
A haggard man so strange,
Who, as he hammered wooden plugs,
Exhorted men to change?
We finished building, finally,
The animals were in.
The people hadn't changed a bit,
Still living in their sin.
And God told us to go inside,
We had no time to waste,
The storm to come would be the worst,
The earth had ever faced.
And so it was, we entered and,
Just as we heard the roar,
Of lightening, thunder, pelting rain,
God kindly closed the door.
I know not whether at the time,
Those jeering, mocking cries,
Were in an instant turned to pleas,
Or desperate, futile sighs,
As one by one they realized,
That time had passed them by,
And now midst raging waters they,
Were all about to die.
For such a storm was all around,
We scarcely heard a thing,
And fear of God and also praise,
From grateful hearts did spring,
And when the storm, its fury o'er,
We had no cause to doubt,
We opened one small window and,
We looked all round about.
There was no land on any side,
As far as we could see,
The water stretched in placid sheets,
It seemed, eternally.
We waited month on end and then,
A dove we sent away,
And when returning not, we knew,
A place it'd found to stay.
The time had come to leave the ark,
And start things all anew,
The animals within were safe,
And all my family, too.
And then we made an offering,
To God for all His grace,
Delivering us so mercifully,
The first of His new race.
And for His part God promised us,
A rainbow lifted high,
Of purest colors shimmering,
Against a cloud-filled sky,
Would signify another flood,
Would not be sent again,
To wreak such devastation and,
Destroy earth's sinful men.
But seasons would continue and,
The stars, the moon and sun,
Their faithful lights would ever give,
And in their courses run.
"But man," He said, "a shortened span,
Shall henceforth ever know,
To taste the plenitude of life,
And blessings I bestow.
"Now, fill the earth and multiply,
From west to distant east,
And let your dominance be known,
By every untamed beast.
"My covenant I make with you,
And nothing shall your hand,
Find lacking for all things are yours,
Throughout this spacious land.
"And though the curse your sin has brought,
Condemned the very sod,
The image that I've made you in,
Is that of very God."
God spoke these words of promise, then,
In all their breadth and scope,
That solemn day of covenant,
Of counsel and of hope.
And now, my sons, let's plant a field,
A harvest then we'll have,
The fruit of grapes, well-seasoned, will,
Our weary bodies salve.
We'll lift the cup a few times and,
Enjoy our lives a while,
And from our vigilance relax,
In restful, carefree style.
from the July 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine