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A Poem for Purim
by Jim Vasquez
Now Xerxes, king of Persia ruled,
From Susa's citadel,
And I, as queen, was confident,
I did in safety dwell.
A hundred provinces and more,
From Cush to India's land,
He ruled, and there was not a foe,
Who dared to raise a hand.
And he had chosen me among,
The loveliest and the best,
That on my fair and comely head,
A regal crown should rest.
For Vashti who was first to reign,
Beside him on the throne,
Displeased the king and all his men,
For this contempt once shown,
Refusing a request that he,
Quite drunk, did make one day,
That she in royal robes appear,
As if there on display.
And for this deed she was removed,
The king would search again,
For yet a lovelier, better queen,
As counseled by his men.
And when they chose me to appear,
'Mongst women not a few,
I told them not whence I had come,
Nor that I was a Jew.
For Mordecai, a cousin, had,
Advised me in this way,
More like a father he had been,
If truth one were to say.
I was assigned fair maidens who,
Would tend to all my need,
And thus within the palace walls,
For nothing had to plead.
And from the day the king beheld,
My form and loveliness,
He wished naught but to make me his,
And all my charms possess.
And then there was a marriage feast,
The king sent out a call,
That nobles and officials come,
To fill the banquet hall.
A holiday was then proclaimed,
Throughout his many lands,
And gifts of royal origin,
Were borne by many hands.
And still I not a word did speak,
Of who my people were,
Uncertain that my master then,
Would yet a Jew prefer.
But if in safety I had thought,
I dwelt from day to day,
A word from Mordecai arrived,
That put me in dismay.
For Haman, 'mongst the nobles first,
And by the king admired,
Was filled with hatred for my kind,
And thus our end conspired.
A date was set, an edict signed,
It had the royal seal,
And laws of Persians and the Medes,
Were quite without appeal.
"Now you must go before the king,"
My cousin ordered me,
"And bowing low on our behalf,
Most humbly make your plea."
But I demurred, I knew so well,
Unless he called me first,
A single punishment there was,
And of them all ? the worst!
But Mordecai replied that day,
With words I'll ne'er forget,
Which were, of all he'd said to me,
By far the noblest yet.
"Think not that you alone will find,
Of Jews in every place,
A haven from destruction that,
Awaits our noble race.
"For silent, still there will arise,
Deliverance for our kind,
But you and all your father's house,
Will not its refuge find.
"And have you not for such a time,
As this come to the throne,
And for this reason wear the crown,
That you have come to own?"
And humbled then, for seeking first,
My safety and not theirs,
I sent him word to call a fast, -
And help me with his prayers!
And I before the king would go,
Disdaining thus the law,
To plead before great Xerxes' throne,
In reverence and in awe.
And if it meant I perished, then,
That risk I had to take,
It was a worthy sacrifice,
That I was called to make.
And when the king beheld my form,
In royal robes arrayed,
His scepter he then offered me,
And to his presence bade.
"And what," he said, "is your request,
That you have come this way?
The half of all my kingdom now,
I offer you this day."
I asked him to a banquet and,
With Haman to attend,
I hoped this evil man to stop,
And bring him to an end.
Then feasting well on olives, dates,
And long-fermented wine,
I thought the time had come to share,
The sorrow that was mine.
"And will my lord not spare my life,
For which I make my plea,
And, merciful, give heed to all,
That has befallen me?
"And will my lord not save us from,
This undeservéd end,
That I and all my people face,
And does our fate portend?
"For truly, now, in every place,
Destruction is our lot,
And naught but death will finally bring,
The peace we long have sought."
Enraged, with staff in hand he rose,
And sternly asked of me,
To name the one who sought our end,
And who this man might be.
"'Tis Haman who has done it, lord,
The man at your right hand,
Who plots my people's slaughter and,
Has issued the command."
And leaving then his wine, so filled,
With vehemence was he,
The king gave thought to Haman and,
To what his end should be.
And Haman, quite undone, then fell,
Upon me where I lay,
And begged that I might mercy show,
And Xerxes' wrath allay.
But Xerxes entered and beheld,
This vile, intemperate man,
Full prostrate over me as I,
Reclined on the divan.
"And will he thus molest the queen,
Within this house of mine,
Is this, now, what he thinks of me,
For this he came to dine?"
And with these words he ordered that,
They hang poor Haman high,
Upon the gallows he had made,
For cousin Mordecai.
Now once the king was made aware,
Of all the foes we faced,
Throughout his many provinces,
He acted then with haste.
We were allowed to save ourselves,
Our properties defend,
And everywhere did vanquish and,
Quite valiantly contend.
And Mordecai was recompensed,
For how he helped the king,
Receiving Haman's properties,
And Xerxes' signet ring.
And honored by the king, he was,
Within the palace wall,
Excepting him who wore the crown,
Exalted over all.
The Jews in every place had cause,
To feast and celebrate,
And days of Purim hence are known,
Beginning with this date.
from the February Purim 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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