bible times

Jacqueline WoodsonReligious

My grandmother keeps her Bible on a shelf
beside her bed. When the day is over,
she reads quietly to herself, and in the morning
she’ll tell us the stories,
how Noah listened
to God’s word
pulled two of each animal inside his ark, waited
for the rains to come and floated safely
as the sinners drowned.

It’s morning now and we have floated safely
through the Nicholtown night,
our evening prayers
Jehovah, please give us another day,
now answered.
Biscuits warm and buttered stop halfway
to our mouths. How much rain did it take
to destroy the sinners? What lies did they tell
to die such a death? How loud was the rain
when it came? How did Noah know
that the cobra wouldn’t bite, the bull
wouldn’t charge, the bee wouldn’t sting?

Our questions come fast but we want
the stories more than we want the answers
so when my grandmother says,
Hush, so I can tell it!
We do.
Jacob’s dream of a ladder to heaven, and Jesus
with the children surrounding him. Moses
on the mountain, fire burning words into stone.
Even Salome intrigues us, her wish for a man’s head
on a platter—who could want this and live
to tell the story of that wanting?

Autumn is coming.
Outside, there’s the sound of wind
through the pine trees.
But inside there are stories, there are biscuits
and grits and eggs, the fire in the potbellied stove
already filling the house with warmth.

Still we shiver at the thought of evil Salome,
chew our biscuits slowly.
We are safe here—miles and years away
from Bible Times.

Last updated November 25, 2022