First posted around this time last year…Remember Lot’s wife, who turns into a pillar of salt as God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone in Genesis, Ch. 19? As is typical of so many Old Testament stories, there are some hair-raising and incomprehensible details leading up to the fiery dénouement. Lot invites strangers into his home, not realizing they are angels in disguise. When townspeople surround his house and demand that he send the strangers out so that they can have sex with them, Lot tries to protect his guests and appease the mob by offering up his own virgin daughters to them instead. Having thus proven his virtue with this highly questionable act, he is rewarded when the strangers reveal themselves to be angels and warn him to save his family and himself by fleeing Sodom before God engulfs the city in flames. As the family runs, Lot’s wife can’t resist turning her head for a moment to look back at her home. For this very human and understandable action, she is punished by being turned into a pillar of salt. There are many “Lot’s Wife” poems including Anna Akhmatova’s, Wislawa Szymborska’s and Gary Whitehead’s. Here’s my attempt:
Lot, that drunken old fool, was always bringing home strangers to feed
“You never know when you might be entertaining angels in need,”
He would simper, while I grumbled and slammed about the kitchen,
Conjuring up a feast out of thin air like some two-bit magician.
On that last day he’d been loafing around Sodom’s gates where he met
A couple of shady drifters…both of them reeking of grime and sweat
He brought them back to our house to spend the night, but seeing my hostile glare
The strangers shuffled their feet and said they’d go sleep out in the square
Lot pushed the door open wide, and loudly insisted they come inside.
I threw my hands up in despair and made our little girls go and hide.
You should have seen the production he made of washing their dirty feet
He plied them with wine and gave them all our unleavened bread to eat
By midnight the men passed out and the house was quiet
Suddenly, we were awakened by the clamor of a riot.
Outside, a menacing mob was shouting, “Send the men out to us!”
And then: Lot’s Grand Finale – a betrayal so despicable, so odious…
“We couldn’t allow our house guests to be molested…
I’ll send our daughters out to them instead,” he suggested
I grabbed a frying pan and tried to bash it over the old man’s head.
I wanted nothing more than to see that sanctimonious jackass dead.
But as I swung, one of the strangers grabbed my wrist
They dragged us out of the house and one of them hissed:
“Whatever you do, don’t look back, not even for a second!”
Sodom was ablaze. We ran as searing flames threatened.
And now? Fire and brimstone are raining down,
Destroying everything in that lousy, godforsaken town
But, oh Lord, it was there I raised my family and buried my kin
It was there where every moment of my life until now had been.
And where the hell are we running to anyway?
Could I even bear to be with Lot for one more day?
So yes, for this moment, I’ll have only myself to blame –
I turn my head back for a glimpse, and see nothing but flame
I stand rooted, transfixed – I’m forced to halt
Oh God! I’m turning into a pillar of salt!
My last words fade as my lip hardens and tingles,
So this is what comes of entertaining angels…
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