We invested in goods to sell in the trade city of Jericho
and I walked the long journey with my loaded donkey.
I stopped that last night at an inn
poised on the edge of Jericho’s wilderness valley.
The neighbours at my table did not look promising;
holy men who carried scrolls not knives,
shabby companions on this last stretch
where you need someone who will stand firm beside you,
someone good for a fight.
That next morning I left the inn alone,
the dawn just crowning;
leaving the door open in my haste,
the innkeeper slammed it as she hissed after me,
“Born in a barn, were you?”
In half-darkness I led my donkey down the steep road.
It was mid-morning when it happened.
I heard them before I saw them,
the six bandits clattering down the rocks.
Enough time for me to assess the situation, “grim”,
to muster my courage and grab my knife.
“Give us what you have,” they yelled,
which only made me smile,
picturing my sons, and me telling them,
“They asked for your inheritance, so I gave it to them.”
And so I fought, but the odds were against me.
They broke my arms, and beat me
and took everything, even my clothes,
and left me on the side of the road,
listening to the sound of our savings being led away.
I drifted in and out as the pain overpowered me,
but I knew that help was on its way.
Those holy men were on the road behind me,
an hour or two at most and I would be saved.
I woke to see that priest’s heels walking away.
My voice also deserted me, too dry to call for help.
The vultures arrived at the same time as the levite,
I was watching them trace lazy circles in the cloudless blue
as he circled wide around me,
the blood and flies too unclean for his hands, no doubt.
I lay baking in the hot son, waiting for death.
A man on a donkey appeared on the road from Jericho.
A foreigner, he greeted me with the words, “Friend, I`ll help you.”
He put me on his donkey, no mean feat with my broken arms,
and took me to the inn I’d left that morning.
The innkeeper shook her head as she looked from my wounds to my face,
“Ah, the man born in a barn.”
They tended to me day and night,
and now weeks later I still sit here mending, on the Samaritan’s tab.
Last night the holy men, the priest and levite,
were neighbours at my table as they took their homeward journey.
They would not meet my eye, which is not surprising.
I do not know if they noticed that I could not meet theirs.
I have no bitterness at what they did not do,
instead my mind is haunted by what might have been.
Had they set out first, and I came upon one of them, broken and bleeding,
would I have unloaded my donkey, left my fortune by the road
and carried them to safety?
Or would I have minded my own business?
I received mercy, but would I have given it?
Each day, I am forever on that wilderness road.