(Thanks to Barbara Kay for forwarding this newly-minted poem by David Solway. Posted by permission of the author.)
There must have been one,
at least one,
who stayed behind in Egypt.
How could there not have been?
Just think about it,
though it is not written in the Book,
how the paradigm inserts itself
in tribe and tribulation.
Maybe he’d slept in, the lazy Jew,
when the people gathered in the Prince’s train,
and awoke too late to grasp his stave and scrip;
or, the lascivious Jew, he’d fallen hard
for a young Egyptian maid
and could not bring himself to renounce
the honey and figs of her lavishness.
Who knows? he may have been on his knees
or swaying back and forth in deepest trance,
the pious Jew, praying for deliverance,
too busy giving the Lord an earful
to notice what was happening.
Maybe he was tending to his wounds,
the lacerated Jew, applying balms and ointments
to the scars of his captivity
on the fateful morning he was left behind;
or the foolish and myopic Jew wondering
why all the commotion, all that dust, nothing to worry about.
Could he have been the heroic Jew,
part of the local Irgun,
preparing to blow up the palace and assassinate the Pharaoh?
Flight was not on his agenda.
But just as likely the appeasing Jew
reluctant to offend his tormentors
or the fearful Jew, expecting pursuit,
unwilling to perish
beneath the wheels of the thundering chariots,
not to mention the traitor Jew
shedding his afterskin
to make himself anew in coveting and subtlety.
Sometimes I think
I am he, I am all of them.
For every reason not written in the Book
I am the Jew who stayed behind in Egypt.