Deserted -- once thriving -- this desolate city:
Jerusalem, empty of all but her fate.
She sits as a widow, alone, more's the pity,
among all the nations, she used to be great.
The princess who ruled them is now a slave made.
She bitterly weeps -- through the night she is crying;
her tears cannot stop nor be dried from her cheeks.
Among all her lovers there is no denying,
she won't find the comfort she desperately seeks.
Her foes were her friends, and by them she's betrayed.
The exiles of Judah, now in subjugation,
enslaved to hard labor, they're sorely oppressed.
She finds herself dwelling among heathen nations,
but can't find among them a place she can rest.
Pursued, she is taken in her dire straits.
The roads to Jerusalem mourn -- they're dejected,
since none celebrate in her annual feasts;
the gates to the city have all been neglected;
with tears from her virgins and groans from her priests,
she suffers in anguish -- how bitter her fate.
In his rage, the LORD's covered Jerusalem's face;
from the heavens, he's thrown down her glory and grace.
In the day of his anger, no mercy was shown;
he's forgotten his footstool, and his temple's unknown.
The LORD's swallowed their houses where they used to dwell,
and he's torn down the strongholds of Judah as well.
He has brought down her people and they've been disgraced;
he's defiled her kingdom, her rulers, debased.
In fierce anger, he's cut off the strength of her land;
with her enemies, he has drawn back his right hand.
He has burned against Jacob like flaming hot fire,
while consuming the land and all things with his ire.
Like an enemy, poised, he has drawn back his bow;
and his right hand is set like a dangerous foe.
He has struck down the youthful and fair as he went;
with his fiery rage burning every man's tent.
I'm the man who has seen much affliction
by the rod of the LORD's holy wrath.
He has driven me into the darkness,
and I walk without light on my path.
I am punished again and again
by his hand all day long without end.
My skin's aged and he makes my flesh withered;
and my bones, he has broken a few.
He's besieged me and I am surrounded
with great hardship in all that I do.
He's made me dwell in darkness instead,
like the ones who've for ages been dead.
I'm confined with no hope of escaping;
and his chains are too heavy to bear.
Even when I cry out for assistance,
he's rejected and shut out my prayer.
My way's barred with cut stone and hewn rock,
while his crooked paths hamper my walk.
Like the bear or the lion, that's hidden,
know the ambush can never be rushed.
He has dragged me away from my pathway;
torn to pieces, I'm wrecked and I'm crushed.
For his bow is drawn back and is taut;
I'm the target for his bow's next shot.
How the gold has become dim and tarnished!
Even gold that is pure tends to fade!
And the stones from your great sanctuary,
from the tops of the streets have been laid.
See how precious, these children of Zion;
worth their weight of the finest of gold.
Now, as clay pots have they been regarded,
and the works that a potter's hands hold.
Even jackals will nurse their own offspring,
by providing them milk for their tongue.
But the daughter of Zion is heartless,
like the ostrich deserting her young.
For the tongues of the children are cleaving
to the roofs of their mouths for their thirst;
they are asking for bread -- no, they're begging!
But the bread to them is not dispersed.
Those who used to eat rich foods now perish,
or they beg on the streets to survive.
Those who grew up with garments of purple,
embrace dunghills to just stay alive.
For the guilt of my people is greater
than of Sodom when she met her end;
when disaster was brought in a moment
and no hand could give aid nor defend.
LORD, remember the things we have suffered!
Pay attention, and notice our shame.
Our inheritance, given to strangers;
and our houses, now foreigners claim.
We have now become fatherless orphans,
and our mothers are widows as well.
We must pay just to use our own water,
and our wood must be wood that they sell.
Our pursuers have treated us harshly;
we are weary, but given no rest.
We have given our hand to Egyptians,
and to Assur for bread they possessed.
Yes, our ancestors sinned, but they're gone now,
yet we're bearing their punishment still.
For the slaves have become our new masters,
and there's none who can free us, or will.
We obtain bread to eat at our peril,
for the sword of the wilderness slays.
And our skin is as hot as an oven,
with the fever of famine ablaze.
Sadly, women of Zion are ravished;
Judah's virgins are treated the same.
By their thumbs are the princes seen hanging,
and our elders are treated with shame.
This poem was a finalist in the October 2022 poetry contest