“In Jacob’s Shadow” by Natalie Reid

Arun Kapur

In Jacob’s Shadow

Written after listening to a recording of Natalie Goldberg’s “Forgotten Ones.”

God of Rebecca,
Mother of the first deceit,
Mother of Jacob, who understood cheating,
Mother of the greedy son,
clutching his red brother’s heel,
grasping for birthright,          
eyes on his future,
Mother of the scion, the godfather,
Father to the tribe;

God of Uncle Mack, oldest of the fourteen,
who cheated his father and brother Phil,
then fled to Southern California,
the better to fleece the newcomers
and cheat the next generation;

God of Uncle Jack,
who hated his Polish father’s poverty,
despised him for giving
everything to others, because he had
and they had not,
Uncle Jack who made millions
buying and selling Park Avenue hotels,
Uncle Jack who gave to the synagogue,
had his round face printed
in the paper, promising riches to
his brother and sisters and
cousins and nephews but
cheating them all;

God of those who lie and steal,
God of the descendants of Jacob’s shadow,
God of those whose blood runs in me
by the grace of shadow,
those I will not be,
those I will survive,
those I will overcome;

God of Rebecca,
who loved one son above the other,
teach me to hold truth between my teeth
like a hard lump of Russian sugar,
suck in the sweetness of integrity
with every sip of strong black tea,
inhale the stinging aroma
of compassion for the defeated;

God of Rebecca who had no daughters,
God of all women who bear only sons
and fear losing them to the ways of
their fathers;

Be thou no longer the God of Mama Fanny,
betraying the husband who made her
a rolling pin tapered
to her expectations,
who beat my father with it and
locked Dorothy and Richard
in the attic to hide
the proof of her adultery,
Fanny who made her older daughters slave
in the kitchen while she lay in bed
eating chocolates, bobbing her hair at forty and taking
piano lessons but never speaking
the truth;

Be thou also the God of Rachel,
true mother to the tribe,
God of women who burn in love of truth,
women who lie only
to sanctify your name;

Be thou my God—
or be no God to anyone at all.


NatalieReid11024_1Natalie Reid (MA, TESOL), author of Getting Published in International Journals: Writing Strategies for European Social Scientists, has always made her living on the road—first teaching English in Japan and the Pacific, and now in northern Europe and Russia. She also lectures twice yearly for visiting scholars and postdocs at UC Berkeley. The author of The Spiritual Alchemist: Working with the Voice of Your Soul, she also teaches writing in the mythological voice and other writing workshops at the confluence of creativity, self-awareness, and spirituality. Her short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in journals such as KnockNatural Bridge, and 13th Moon Press

InShot_20210313_184317872Arun Kapur is a mental health advocate that uses the medium of the arts to spread messages of unity, support and wellbeing. He believes though art, speaks words of the unheard.