“How Do We Make Sense of What Will Be When We Hold Remnants of What Once Was?” by Steven Peck

A scientific inquiry in three poetic studies

Study I: Job
And the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind . . . Job 38:1

When at last God appeared to
answer Job’s complaint
to address his pain & suffering

What would God say to someone
who lost all that he loves?
All that mattered?

Someone whose wormy
flesh was infected
with boils?

Whose every breath made him
curse the womb from which
he was birthed?

When He arrived,
the Lord did not explain the
nature of suffering.

Nor tell him it would all turn
out for the best, or that heaven
would restore all losses.

God made no move to kiss his
diseased skin to make it
better with his healing lips.

God did not explain
that He too suffers,
nor that God will suffer

in the garden, so that
He might understand
Job’s suffering.

None of these.

Rather, exuberant. Giddy.
God gestures wildly at
whales. Their wonder.

Their beauty!
Like Ahab’s single-
minded attention

to his pale Leviathan,
God delights in
His own.

God speaks of
singing stars,
Points to the Pleiades—

The Seven Sisters
and demands Job
consider Orion’s belt.

Lightning bolts,
snow covered mountains,
the birth of kid goats &

wild ox & asses,
Hippos large and ungainly.

Job bows his head
and relents. Is suffering the
price of beauty, and being?

Study II: Job and Darwin

Job: My youngest daughter? When she was young, during the lambing sea- son, she would come to see me in the grassy pastures with her mother. They would arrive with a large wallet stuffed with strips of dry mutton, dates, grapes, and a loaf of small wheat bread baked in the stone oven near the back of our house. We would sit by the slow-moving river and eat our meal and watch the crocodiles drift like logs, still and peaceful. How slowly they would maneuver to be near the floating Red-necked Phalaropes bobbing fresh from their long flight over the desert! Then, when at just the right distance from the bird, in an explosion of white water, they would snatch one up and in an instant devour it. How my little treasure would scream when the beast would, in roiling commotion and chaos, take its prey. When the great lizard’s lunch was over and the river was calm again and the wind slight, she would ask so many questions as the clouds drifted full and without care across the sky. Why is the dove so sorrowful? Which is older the river or the hills? How do the ants find their way in the darkness of the tunnels? She loved to hold the lambs close, though they were not much smaller than she. As she got older, she would come out to help me break the horses that we would sell to the Egyptians for their war chariots. And when no men were looking, how she loved to ride those wild beasts. I knew of course, but I did not mind. She seemed to fear nothing and those steeds seemed to understand her slightest touch as she rode over the grasses so abundant near our home. She was with my other children when the wind came and brought the house down upon them. They all died that day—when the wind came and the house fell down upon them, from my oldest to my youngest. The wind came up. The wind. Came. Up. And the house fell down upon them. And all my beloved ones. My children. They died.

As did I, in any way that matters. Everything I became after that was no becoming. How could I ’be,’ after what I had ’been?’

Darwin, eyes wet, places his hand on Job’s shoulder.

Darwin: Oh sweet little Annie. Where are you now my poor dear girl? I know. I know…in the ground resting under a tree at the Great Malvern Priory. In the ground … She was the apple of her father’s eye. She was indeed. She would follow me everywhere. She loved to take the Sandwalk with me as I strolled round and round marking the passage of our ellipse by the bump of a foot to the stone, sending it away and in so doing marking our traverse. Often she would assist me in my dissections of barnacles in my study. She loved the pigeons. She would, like old Father Adam, name them: One-eye, Flower Bottom, Captain Angel Beak, Mother’s pie. Even now I smile to think on her and how she was taken too…too young. How could I believe in God after that? Some thought it was my theory that drove me away. But how could such a being maintain a universe where little Annie could be taken away?

Job: I was angry.
Darwin: I was angry.
Both: But we were blessed with a vision of the Creation? Were we not?
Job: The singing whales.
Darwin: And the merry Galapagos finches.
Both: The cost was too high. And I would give it up. All of it, for—
Job: My daughter . . . that the wind took.
Darwin: Little Anne . . . my Annie, who was swept away by incurable coughings.

Study III: Being

Every child knows,
That being comes,
From a becoming,

That every ’is,’
Comes from a ’was,’
On its way to a ’will be.’

That which I am
Was born of chaos,
And from the whirlwind

Out of which God spoke,
And asked, ”Have you seen
my whales?