Skip to main content

A new jawbone



Judges 16



What someone can do
with something new
can surprise

your eyes open wide
here by your side
you find what’s required

to tackle the task
no need to ask
for much help

just put out your hand
seize the moment and
nothing can stop you

armed with a jawbone
you slew on your own
a thousand men.

                                                           
Who’d have thought that the jaw
of one herbivore
had such power?



Well, it wasn’t any old jaw bone – it was a new one.  I’m not sure how important it was that it happened to be one of an ass, but the narrated story – minimal as it is in other respects – provides us with that particular detail.

‘Found’ is interesting too.  Was he looking – searching for a weapon – or did he just come across that fresh mandible lying in the grass?

And the putting forth of his hand, with its suggestion of a conscious and determined action, after a moment – perhaps even a longer time – of reflection, raises many a question.  Almost thousands.

In short, this short Old Testament sentence is packed with drama while punctuated by absent essentials, not to mention details, exaggerated assertions – along with questions.   

So here we find ourselves, now well into a new year, a new month, indeed a new era, with a new jawbone.   I find it hard to believe (to coin a phrase) that, until recently at least, people – most people, everybody? – believed all that was written in the bible. What an incredible story!

My poem had to conclude with a question. 
As for the underlying question as to what this whole crazy episode means, I can’t help but feel that notwithstanding the massive carnage about which nobody seems much bothered there are some wonderful messages.  For a start, you may surprise yourself as to what you can achieve on your own. And what’s needed may be close at hand, in unexpected form and far more effective than you might have predicted.

With that ultra-succinct description from the bible, my poem had to be short, straight forward and attempt to emulate the curiously matter of fact tone (even if the facts strain credulity).  Of course, there were consequences – but that, as they say, is another story.  I hint at one of these as I see Samson’s wide-open eyes…

But returning to where we started, with the notorious jaw bone, I’m reminded of Churchill (that master of words) and his famous rhyme about jaw and war.  Might it just be that the true power of the jaw is in what it enables: words are our most powerful weapon – even if this one was from an ass?



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A plague on all these houses

It's a great poem, Lowell's For the Union Dead.
I only recently came across it - at least, that's what I thought - but it's been grunting (I choose the word advisedly) away in my head ever since, especially that fourth verse.

Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steam shovels were grunting
as they cropped up tone of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

It took a little while for me to realise why.
Before (I thought) I'd read it, I wrote a poem about the new housing estates springing up round our little town. I was thinking about the various creatures that had lived on the field that was to be covered with houses - sheep primarily - and then those that were to follow.

The first were, well, a sort of dinosaur.

Here's my second verse:

At first it was the one-armed monsters,
set free within their caged arena
to trundle round, and gently paw
the ground, then pile up mounds of earth
accompanied by Lego men.

I was pleased with my trope, so muc…

Happy Christmas!

Christmas – or if you prefer, Solstice, Hanukkah, or just This Special Time…







Stop now.  For a moment, wait. And look.  From here you can see far. In this direction, where we’ve been – the climb, the ups and downs.
Now turn around. There before you lies the future.  At the summit of the year there’s time to rest, and be refreshed – let’s gather here, so we may share each other’s company, look forward to the new arrivals, lives to come travelling into this misty landscape, and in our brightness bring to mind those no longer in our group.
So drop your rucksack, get your breath back the old year lies behind – for now let’s all enjoy the present gift-wrapped here before us.


I’m quite sure this little poem has no great literary, let alone poetic merit, but hey we don’t always have to be polished, clever, neat or profound. Or original. Or elegant.
Especially not when you’ve just got to the top of a mountain.
But there is a definite and justified sense of celebration to be savoured then.
I’ve always loved moun…

The Cadence

He embraces the sheep
an ungainly bundle unusually tilted
now leaning back against the man
who bowed over, grasps with his knees
and left hand, to perform. Like a cellist

he knows how to play.
Fingertips splayed to tension the skin
right hand guiding across the bridge
a gleam of blades to separate fleece –
music from silence, wrapped up in wool.

The animal listens
accepting the prospect of resolution ahead,
resigned to his practised hands, grip of the thighs
the charm of the music
and caressing of steel.

He stretches his arm out
to reach high notes in third position.
Lanolined leather feet shift softly beneath.
The sheep tips back more to enable the soar
of melody heard only by them.

He lets fall the burden
accustomedly righting the sheep. He arises
to bow for a moment as if in acknowledgement
then straightens – the fleece being lifted
and folded, like music.

The performer resumes
with no pause for applause. He turns
to the next – there are more
many more waiting. So the music contin…