Poem: “The Competition”


The Competition
from Genesis 29-35


Listen, Judah, and try to understand:
for seven years, Jacob served his Uncle Laban
for his cousin Rachel’s hand
and thought of no one else. It was her dark
hair he felt against his cheek,
her lips and body shaped
to his, and the nape
of her neck cradled in his mind.

All night, he called her name,
and she responded, never mentioning
she was someone else beneath the marriage veil
as, outside the moonless tent, the festival
continued for your father, Jacob, and his bride.
In the discerning light of morning,
awakening by your mother’s side,
he could not hide his surprise
at seeing Leah there.

And this is the hard test of astonishment:
the suddenness with which it comes,
words bungling everything but awe-full truth.

If only he’d had a moment for composure….
If only he’d sensed some disquiet in the night….
If only he’d expected the unexpected,
perhaps he could have been more gracious
than to flee in consternation, calling
on Laban to make things right.


One day for each year he’d waited for her sister
was all your mother had to turn your father’s heart
toward hers to keep. Let them sleep now, un-
accosted, side by side.

Mary Harwell Sayler


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