This was an idea I had when I referenced Lot’s Wife in my poem The Merry Maidens. I guess my beef was with the idea that God would turn women into stone or salt just for being slightly naughty. There seemed to be a more powerful message in this story – Ladies…do as you are told! Obey your man (God)…or else!
As I write this, the Harvey Weinstein story has just broken (a man using his power and influence to pressure women into having sex with him…or else!). The poem’s subtitle (as told by someone who wasn’t there either) is a dig at the provenance of the Bible. Written hundreds of years after the actual events by men making use of other people’s oral accounts…each successive teller having an agenda… it must end up as a sort of Hebrew whispers.
I can’t help feeling that if God had spoken his word through a chain of women, who then compiled the Bible, Koran or Tanakh , we might live in a very different society.
Like all books that are edited, the editor has the final say and if some other account that comes along doesn’t fit with the editor’s vision then it gets rejected…and the editor’s decision is final.
(or The Tale of Lot’s Wife as told by somebody else who wasn’t there either)
The Bible tells us little of Lot’s wife;
Her husband’s name…well that one’s a given.
Sodom, her town…synonymous with sin
Was coming up for review in Heaven
Turned by God into a pillar of salt;
She looked back when she shouldn’t have oughta.
Maybe parental concern turned her head,
For an abandoned son or a daughter?
But some scrolls unearthed in the desert sands
Are now causing a storm in the media.
Scholars and experts are willing to say
They’re as accurate as Wikipedia.
Back when the Bible was going to press
And its editors were tasked to compile;
One writer fell foul of the Vatican
Who didn’t favour his page-turning style.
“We don’t think you’re taking seriously
The whole point of Sodom and Gomorrah!
You seem to be trying to entertain
While we want to fill readers with terror.
“We weren’t taken with your Lot and his wife
In that he found it awkward to handle her.
We’re looking for a little more Dante
And not so much of the Raymond Chandler!”
So sending him a rejection slip and
The advice “Try writing a whodunit…”
His name was erased from all their records
And he was marked down as ‘not for prophet’
Now seen as patron saint of screenwriters
But back then he was cast as pariah.
Out of darkness into the light…hear now
The words of the prophet Grahamiah!
Excerpt from THE BOOK OF GRAHAMIAH
The twin towns of Sodom and Gomorrah
Were joint top of the Decadent League charts.
God wanted to punish them for taking…(how can I say?)
Too much of an interest in the Arts.
Their wicked ways were well-documented…
Lives of debauchery, lust and ennui.
The Sodomians were an evil lot.
(Well we can’t call them sodomites, can we?)
With procedures already set in place;
God already had a man on the spot.
There to fight crime for the SGPD;
His name was Detective Inspector Lot.
Now Lot was disillusioned and depressed
At his failure to clean up the city.
Policeman Lot was not a happy one
Because it was rife with iniquity.
God had charged him with an onerous task;
In order to prevent the cities’ fate.
He had to locate fifty righteous men…
So far he had only come up with eight.
And so it was that God had decided
On the cities’ complete demolition.
He said not a single stone would survive…
Easing the way for planning permission.
But God could see that Lot was a good man
And sent two of his angels to warn him.
“Sodom and Gomorrah are toast”, they said.
“So make sure you’re long gone before morning.”
“The Lord makes this one simple proviso;
On hearing the first fire and brimstone crack
Over the decadence you’ve left behind.
It’s imperative that you don’t look back!”
At this point I shall introduce Lot’s wife…
We’ll call her Edith to make things plainer.
Now salt of the earth was lovely Edith
And Lot’s love for her was a no-brainer.
As they followed the Angels up the hill;
The first blast caused them all some upheaval.
“Betcha bottom dollar that’s Gomorrah!”
Sung one angel…which seemed rather evil.
Lot knew that his wife could be wilful.
They’d discussed it as they climbed up the track.
He pleaded with her to resist the urge,
But she couldn’t stop herself looking back.
A horrendous crack rent the morning air; Then the soundtrack to pandaemonium. Lot looked at his wife for the last time as She turned from Sodom into sodium.
Now Lot in his wanderings grew distraught
He saw that column as her monument.
Dragging poor Edith from pillar to post…
She became a well-travelled condiment.
Her presence became an embarrassment…
So much so that when Lot wasn’t looking,
His later wives would chip bits of her off
As a means to enliven their cooking.
This process led to her diminishment;
It no longer took ten men to lift her.
She spent her final days on the table
Like a family-sized drum of Sifta.
Our prophet’s cautionary tale is not
That women should obey their masters
He wants to keep you turning the page with
Severed heads, plagues and whaling disasters.
Like that aforementioned cast out prophet
I’m only looking to entertain you;
But it would be remiss not to point out
That there is other stuff on the menu.
Whatever’s written must have a writer
So if there’s a god you choose to exalt
Be wary of those who represent them
And take what they write with a pinch of salt.
© gray lightfoot
Hear Gray read the poem at…