More Poems by Barry Chant

Caleb Remembers

Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him,
“This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship
me.”’ (Exodus 9:1)

I was a boy when first I heard
the name of Moses. Funny name,
I thought; but something stirred
within me, sneaking like a flame
around a sacrifice for Yahweh,
first disturbing, then consuming
every sinew in a way
that ridiculed Egyptian gloom
and made me know that Israel’s God
would set us free.

When Moses spoke,
you knew that somewhere he had trod
on holy ground. There were some folk
whose cynicism stuffed their eyes
and ears with doubt – but as for me,
I think that Yahweh made me wise
in infancy clearly to see
that when someone proclaimed, ‘Thus says
the Lord’, affirming it with signs
and wonders, these were urgent days
in which to live. My own designs
no longer mattered. Who can bide
unmoved when he is on the verge
of something that will change the tide
of history?

‘Twas like a surge
of water from the sea that gulped
the chariots of Pharoah’s horde —
the faith that crushed my fear to pulp
when Moses cried, ‘Thus says the Lord!’
Old age has withered me and dried
the energy that flowed along
my veins. But faith is vivified
and still there lives within the song
of Moses of deliverance
from Egypt – not because again I hear
the shout of Israel or the dance
of Miriam, for one thing’s clear:
that conquest issued, not from Israel’s sword,
but from that Moses-cry: ‘Thus says the Lord!’