I’ve found this next one in the Waiting series hard to write. So hard that I’m a week behind in my weekly poems. Some of the stories that I’m looking at are stories I know very well, yet I’m seeing in them the pains of characters often marginalised in how we tell them. The story of Leah, Jacob’s neglected wife, is one of these, and it’s a story I feel ill-equipped to tell. I’m not sure I have done it justice, but it’s a start. May it at least give us a new way to see the workings of God’s grace in the forgotten and neglected.
The ways of grace are slow and subtle.
My father’s is wily; my husband’s too.
Serpentine, they wind their way through lives,
seldom giving without an eye to the favour,
seldom expecting different from anyone else.
My eyes look straight; I’m told they are dull
(or radiant perhaps – I never know for sure),
but I knew what I saw when he first came to us.
He saw what all men see: he saw Rachel.
My father saw different: he saw a prize,
and saw the way to extract it.
I was the way – or part of it. “Go,”
he said, sending me to Jacob’s bed.
“He’s too drunk to know the difference.”
As though I would not know either,
would forget the way he usually saw me,
would mistake his raptures for a confession
that it was me, not Rachel, it was me all along.
If you would call me dull, it is only in this:
that after years of wily men and their ways,
I hoped with each child that soon he would change.
Though I saw how his eyes turned to Rachel,
how even his footstep differed when he turned
to her bed, not mine,
I still felt hope shiver with each son I gave him,
and in that shiver a dull dream
that now, now after all he would see me.
Fool. Only with Judah, my fourth, did I see
a way that, though subtle, was not wily,
though it had winded and twisted and bent with me.
Only with Judah did I catch something better.
Now, I whispered. Now I will praise the Lord.