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The Song of Ruth

The Song of Ruth


We five came apart slowly,

like a child plucks petals from a flower.

First Elimelech, the father

whose name and protection showed me that

My God could be kind;

he left us not yet old. And we wept,

and tore our garments, wore

ashes like a waxen crown.

Yet we had each other,

Chilion and Orpah, Mahlon and Ruth—

and we girls embraced you, dear Naomi,

whose loving heart was a foreign land

that made us forget the cruelties of our youth.

I remember well

the day I entered your house;

the swallow had woven her nest on your lintel

and sang honeyed notes.

To be greeted with a kiss and a sweet 

word from you, Naomi,

of pleasant face and lovely gaze, remains a balm

to one who had been declared

a burden by the one who bore me into this world—

I drew the first free breath of my life.

Your son beautiful and strong

as my bridegroom, my young stag

brought down by Death 

the remorseless hunter.

The last, sputtering pillar of our lives

crumbled to earth that last day,

the day that Mahlon’s breath left him.

Chilion, too, sleeping in the dust

went down before his brother,

our wails keening like a skylark in flight.

“Turn back to your mother’s house,”

you told me, with tears

as bitter as the name you now claim.

My sister Orpah kissed you, her face lined with

tears tracing watercourses of the Negev, weeping

from the well of grief

you would think had run dry by now.

She turned her nape to us reluctantly, persuaded

by your pleas.

                          But not I.

The nightingale’s song lays a path

straight to my heart’s core;

I would rather 

stand in tears in an alien field, 

homeless as a nightjar, gleaning

for the reluctant scraps left behind

under your Law’s commanded compassion

than return to the cold dwelling of my birth.

Your heart is my mother’s house and hearth:

I who first knew kindness with you

will trace the arc of my life within your embrace

even unto Death’s final stitch in my winding-sheet. To you

will I cling beyond my last breath.

In the midst of your people

will I pitch my tent;

your God will I worship,

whose lovingkindness I know in your eyes.

I would rather shelter with you, rootless

under the cold light of foreign stars,

wandering without a doorway of our own

than be parted from you, ever. Your tenderness

the only inheritance I claim, your embrace

I will never surrender. With you

I will lodge in Bethlehem, 

lay my life upon altars

to a God known only through your friendship,

and give you descendants dancing like constellations

to banish your bitterness,

to secure you a home redolent of bread,

abundant with the attar

of roses.

The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO.  She posts daily prayers at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.


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