Biblical Also-Rans
    Charles Harper Webb


    Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, Carmi,
    Jemuel, Ohad, Zohar, Shuni:
    one Genesis mention's all you got.
    
    Ziphion, Muppim, Arodi: lost
    in a list even the most devout skip over
    like small towns on the road to L.A.
    
    How tall were you, Shillim?
    What was your favorite color, Ard?
    Did you love your wife, Iob?
    
    Not even her name survives.
    Adam, Eve, Abel, Cain-
    these are the stars crowds surge to see.
    
    Each hour thousands of Josephs,
    Jacobs, Benjamins are born.
    How many Oholibamahs? How many
    
    Mizzahs draw first breath today?
    Gatam, Kenaz, Reuel? Sidemen
    in the band. Waiters who bring
    
    the Perignon and disappear.
    Yet they loved dawn's garnet light
    as much as Moses did. They drank
    
    wine with as much delight.
    I thought my life would line me up
    with Samuel, Isaac, Joshua.
    
    Instead I stand with Basemath, Hoglah,
    Ammihud. Theirs are the names
    I honor; theirs, the deaths I feel,
    
    their children's tears loud as any
    on the corpse of Abraham, their smiles
    as missed, the earth as desolate
    
    without them: Pebbles on a hill.
    Crumbs carried off by ants.
    Jeush. Dishan. Nahath. Shammah.
    
    

    --From Liver
    (University of Wisconsin Press)


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