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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: River (08/31/06)

TITLE: Life in a Land of Death.
By Helen Murray


River, great river, where do you flow?
Down through the bulrushes. Didnít you know?
Iíve a baby there hidden in a basket of tar,
With a yell you could hear at the palace afar,
With curly, black hair, not a tooth to be seen,
And a smile to melt even the heart of a queen.
Iíve princesses bathing and washing their tresses,
There, one has heard him. ďHeís Hebrew,Ē she guesses.

She wades out to grasp at the basket he lies in.
Then gathers him up so her bosom he cries in.
I ripple around them creating a bonding
Of princess and child, a new mother creating..
She craves her own baby, and in the enchantment
Of sunlight on water by soft reed-bed catchment
She hugs to herself her own portent of torment.
And carries him home to a city of foment.

Oh River, great River, where now do you flow?
Down past the palace gate. Didnít you know?
Thereís a young boy comes playing with his mother so fine.
Heís looking for fishes upon which to dine.
His mother is laughing. She adores her boy.
She giggles and chatters at his every ploy
To the maidens who wait upon her every need.
They also enjoy watching one of his breed.

They wonder how long before this child will know
That heís not an Egyptian, but a slaveís child, and so
He will look for his father and true mother dear,
And part of his heart will be found with them there.
And heíll wonder why she gave away her own son,
And how it would be if a slave heíd been one.
What then will he do with those new thoughts and feelings?
Heíll cry and heíll weep in emotional reelings.

Oh River, great River, where now do you flow?
Down past the marketplace. Didnít you know?
Down where a man plunges staff into water,
And turns me to blood. Itís a general slaughter
For no-one can drink now, and fishes are dying.
And all the Egyptians are screaming and crying,
Moses, the man, eyeballs Pharaoh demanding
His people, the Hebrews, be let to go marching.

And Pharaoh himself is now blustering loudly
(The smell of dead fish is affecting him badly!)
Demanding his magic men do something urgently
(The fear in their hearts is affecting them pungently!)
All they can do as they protest their reasons
Is a mild imitation in this frightening season.
But meanwhile begins now a frantic activity Ė
Digging for water is now a necessity.

River, great River, where now do you flow?
Down through the Goshen fields, didnít you know?
Itís the only place free of the great jumping menace.
A thousand green frogs just took over the palace
And every square cubit has been commandeered,
From my banks to the desert for frogs to be reared!
Never heard such a croaking, inglorious sound
Be projected wherever an Egyptian is found..

Now what have we here? Itís a rare ostentation
Iím getting a push from the rear, and itís frozen!
How is it that now in this hot sultry climate
A precipitation of hail so inclement.
Is knocking them down like slaves in the market
Yes, thousands of people and cattle have carked it.
Not ever in all of my long ancient history
Have huge balls of hail held Egypt in pillory.

River, great River, where now do you flow?
Well, why do you ask, Ďcause itís too dark to know!
Thereís nothing thatís visible by night or by day..
If I didnít have banks I could not find my way.
Itís eery! For once all the boatmen agree
That the Hebrews have power from their God, Yahweh.
Pharaohís the sticking point, I have heard tell.
But his people are thinking that Egypt is hell!

The sun is now rising, and look what I see.
All the people from Goshen are leaving. Theyíre free!
The donkeys are packed and the children are cheering.
No more of slavery. Oh, What a feeling!
Four hundred years on a fertile oasis,
Creator, I served as they strengthened their basis.
They watered their crops and fished in my larder.
And now theyíre away, a brave new land to plunder.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Powers 09/07/06
I love the rhythm of this poem. It flowed like a river, and the story was well told.