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Editing Job

I'd cut the prologue, where God agrees
To let his opponent, Satan,
Torment our hero merely to prove
What omniscience must know already:
That Job's devotion isn't dependent
On his prosperity. And how foolish of God
If he supposes that Satan, once proven wrong,
Will agree to forego his spite against creation
For even a minute.

I'd keep the part where Job disdains
His friends' assumption that somehow
He must be to blame for his suffering,
And the part where he makes a moving appeal
To God for an explanation.
I'd drop God's irrelevant, angry tirade
About might and majesty versus weakness.

The issue is justice. Is our hero
Impertinent for expecting his god
To practice justice as well as preach it,
For assuming the definition of justice
That holds on earth holds as well above?
Abraham isn't reproved in Genesis
For asking, when God decides to burn Sodom,
If it's fair to lump the good with the wicked.

Let Job be allowed to complain
About his treatment as long as he wants to,
For months, for decades,
And in this way secure his place forever
In the hearts of all who believe
That suffering shouldn't be silent,
That grievances ought to be aired completely,
Whether heard or not.

As for the end, if it's meant to suggest
That patience will be rewarded, I'd cut it too.
Or else I suggest at least adding a passage
Where God, after replenishing Job's possessions,
Comes to the tent where the man sits grieving
To ask his pardon. How foolish of majesty
To have assumed that Job's new family,
New wife and children and servants,
Would be an ample substitute for the old.

Carl Dennis

American Poetry Review

January / February 2013

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