Stacks of burlap in the basement seven bags high:
soybean, rice, corn seed;
cans of peaches, peas, carrots and green beans,
enough to feed Gideon’s army.
Gideon, you may recall from Sunday School,
gathered a ragtag crew of three-hundred Israelites
on God’s instruction to slay the Mideonite army.
Mother grimaces: “Talk to your father,” she says.
At supper we eat boiled soybeans
with Ezekiel bread and butter.
The old man opines on the health benefits of soy
and its utility as a righteous food source.
The meat of the field, did you know,
is a supernatural antioxidant blessed with protein,
vitamins and minerals?
We learn dried soybean, stored properly,
will retain its nutritional value long enough
to survive an apocalypse.
I am twelve-years-old in ’82
and the end of the world sounds like a video-game ending
where the protagonist expires
in a whirling puff of smoke only to discover himself
reborn into a dazzling, unspoiled universe.
In father’s game, global war seizes planet earth
followed by a return of the angry, Old Testament god
hurling fire and brimstone down upon
an ungrateful creation.
“Do not fear,” the old man says, drawing us
near to him. “God’s chosen will be spared his wrath
and rewarded with riches in heaven.”
Gideon was also chosen,
and for his subservience rewarded as a hero of faith –
seventy sons were bestowed upon him
from the many women he took as wives.
Yet, Gideon petitioned divine intervention
before signing on to the plan – three miracles
he required as proof of God’s intent.
I required only one:
Dear Heavenly Father, hear my prayer.
Your holy scripture declares that to those
who ask it will be given … I humbly ask
that you demonstrate the truth of your power
by turning these boiled soybeans into
macaroni and cheese. Amen.
He does not complain
when she drinks too much at parties.
A solemn reserve masks his displeasure;
he is far too mannered
to provoke a scene.
While other couples quibble
over inane social decorum,
he maintains a decisive restraint,
even as she betrays
their most intimate affairs.
He does not censor her language
with unfamiliar guests,
although she spooks the delicate
among them with brash comedy
and wild gesticulation.
She croons to inviting men
when she finds him inattentive
and suffers aloud when he scorns
her amorous gesture. Long after
others have bid goodnight,
he coaxes her to the car
and drives them home, stopping
along the rain-soaked freeway
so she may vomit
her memory of the evening.
He observes her beneath
a veil of tearful prayer and visions
of a cherished life reflected
in the pavement. In the bedroom,
he rebuffs her advance,
insists she remove her soiled attire.
OK, Boss, she mutters. You're the boss.
He draws a warm, saline bath,
presents fresh underclothes
A Nice Young Man
I guessed right off by the fanciful demeanor
and baroque, manicured appearance.
Barbara Streisand records on display in the parlor
were a decisive give-away.
He said he was a teacher of special-needs children.
His mother left him the estate in her will
and he turned it into a Bed & Breakfast.
I know men like him who fled to the city
in their youth, delivering themselves
from the stranglehold of rural intolerance,
yet here he was, fledgling entrepreneur,
director of the Presbyterian church choir,
as rooted in the red soil as the Cottonwood tree
that shaded my bedroom window.
I'd have liked to ask why a handsome gentleman
living alone in the dust bowl of America
had not turned his heels in search of companionship,
but thought better of it when he presented a photograph
of daughter and grandchild.
"The blessed outcome", he declared,
"of an awkward, high-school affair."
"Don’t the Lord fashion fortune from our folly?"
he added, before retiring for the evening.
I lingered with that on the stairwell, pondering
the difference between luck and fate,
then straightened his picture wall
and signed the guestbook inscribed
with a verse from Psalms 139:14:
“I praise you because I am fearfully
and wonderfully made; marvelous are
your works, my soul knows it well.”
In the morning, he prepared a table
of fresh berries and scones, poached eggs, coffee,
crème brûlée in homemade raspberry sauce.
Our dear Grandmother, for whom we traveled
many miles to celebrate a birthday,
remarked that our host reminded her
of the nice young man who designed
her home interior remodel.
"You're thinking of Cousin Jerry,"
her sister replied. "Such a charming boy he was.
Shame he never married."
Thomas Lambert was born and raised in the Midwest, USA. A former U.S. Marine and Desert Storm veteran, he studied creative writing at the universities of Kansas and East Anglia. His poetry has been featured in Pearl, Di-Verse-City, Bluing The Blade, The American Dissident and other publications. Lambert lives in Dripping Springs, Texas with his wife and two daughters.