the eldest

he watched in envy, this colorful approach
among the desert wind; the flocks were watering
and when his brethren saw his gaze,
they followed it, and frowns replaced smiles,
one even cursed and spat upon the sands.

“looks like it’s lunch, doesn’t it,” he said blandly,
remembering the stories of this approaching lad,
his brothers mumbled, and looking at them,
he saw the vitriolic faces twisted by the same recall,
murder was in those gazes, and his heart was troubled.

he gauged the distance, five minutes, more or less,
before the naive figure reached their place,
and he thought of a sport to play upon the lad,
both to appease these murderous hearts,
and save the life of this beloved boy.

“come near, my brothers, i have a plan,”
and nine swarthy brethren congregated;
he was their eldest, and he knew them well,
deftly he played upon their feelings, just enough to goad them,
and carefully enough to keep their blades sheathed.

the lad was laden with the burden given,
breads, and meat, and honey, and milk,
enough to satisfy the hunger of ten men,
the boy smiled at these brethren he admired,
respected, and emulated; the eldest nodded at the boy.

it happened all too suddenly; as they began to sit,
three of the fiery-tempered sprang and bound the lad,
stripping his coat, binding him with ropes,
and gagging his mouth to prevent his outcry,
the others joined the fray in eagerness

save for the eldest, who was thinking quickly now,
for unbidden, came the flying out of knives and threats,
seeing the paling face and fear-widened eyes
wrenched his heart, and masterfully he spoke,
“bring him down the dry well as agreed!”

he stood unspeaking after they have done so,
they ate in murmured silence, each one steeped
in discontent and fermenting hate; he watched them,
doing his best to find a path of peace, but turmoil
ate at his thoughts, so finally he stood

“i just remembered the last goats that we left
upon the other side of the hill; i shall go,
fetch them hither, and mind that none of you
do anything in my absence, i shall be back soon,
and we shall then decide what next to do.”

he took the coat with him, the favored cloth,
unremarkable, really, except for the pattern,
the carefully dyed colors that marked the lad
as the one their father favored over him,
ah, how difficult it is to understand for him!

but finally he did, and now, he must,
with all his powers protect the lad from harm;
as he was walking back, he had decided,
upon the best way to do it, saving the boy,
while giving time enough for hatred to cool.

a caravan of nubians were just disappearing
on the horizon as he returned, towing the goats,
and as he came he saw the gloating faces,
and his heart sank, fearing the worst;
“what happened,” he whispered, “where is he?”

“see, eldest brother, we were wise!”
said the shrewdest of them, brandishing a pouch
that sounded heavy with silver, “we sold him!
and now there shall be no blood upon our hands,
and there shall be money moreover for our pains!”

with pained heart he tried to search the distance,
for the direction of the nubians’ retreat,
“what have you done! what tale shall i then bring
to our aging father? i said do nothing until i returned,
so that in concert we could decide!”

“what, shall you propose to fetch him, then, oh eldest?”
another spoke; “behold, we have saved his life,
and at the same time gave back to you what thou deserved:
the birthright blessing of our thriving house!
listen, oh eldest brother, listen to our proposal!”

and so, that afternoon love was defeated
by fear and ambition, and an eldest’s dream;
later he repented, and his brethren with him,
but having done what they did, there was no turning back,
they knew not anymore where to find joseph, their brother.


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