Home > Words of Power > With Nebuchadrezzar in Jerusalem

With Nebuchadrezzar in Jerusalem

December 18, 2009

by William Doreski

Just because Jeremiah complained,
God turned over Jerusalem
to Nebuchadrezzar, who burned it.

Not that we didn’t enjoy
splashing fuel around the temple
and cooking the so-called great Men

in their houses; not that we minded
toppling bronze pillars and stealing
oil lamps, pots, shovels, snuffers,

copper vessels, firepans, and scraps
of gold and silver; not that we paused
an instant before we murdered

threescore men at Riblah
and set that corrupt old slob
Gedaliah in the governor’s seat.

But Jeremiah bothered us
with his offhand eloquence,
his pipeline to heaven. Who explained

how to read the dry sticks and bones
in the desert? Who bribed him
to squeal on his own people?

Who directed him to pray
to the pantheon’s weakest figure,
a god who’d quickly see

the logic of the anti-Semite?
Who knew he’d like the taste of ash
on his tongue, the screams in his ears?

Who taught him how to invoke
Nebuchadrezzar without smiling
like a child who just killed a fly?

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William Doreski teaches at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poetry is Waiting for the Angel (2009). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, and Natural Bridge.

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  1. Alex Cigale
    January 10, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Atta way using the man’s own word against him! And it’s so up-to-date and modern. I like the adoption of the perspective of the persecutor; it works! Another good piece, William.

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