ROMAN SOLDIER: [Enters with other soldiers and Jael and scaffold. She is bloody and nearly or totally naked. They have just finished whipping her and she collapses. They crucify her as he speaks:]
Hail, friends, dogs, chattel of Rome! We won’t be here long. She will be here longer than you are she would like.
Bow before Caesar’s forces! Kneel before the eagle!
[They intimidate the Jews, driving them to the edges of the stage.]
FIRST ROMAN SOLDIER:
Witness the punishment for murder of a citizen of Rome. This whore must die for it.
JAEL: [Her delivery is bipolar but begins weak and then finds strength, though her voice remains hoarse. She is fooled by her own ironies so as to appear completely sincere. She must speak extremely fast by the end but remain articulate. This actress must be miked. As she speaks a spotlight should narrow on her until finally there is just a needle of light on her face.]
What a brief toy our cheated life must seem.
The kingdom shall to Israel be restored!
Send forth Messiah, the time has come, O God!
Go unreserved to slay a thousand crows,
A hammered thousand Roman swords that march
In serried legions – adamant their shields,
Gleaming their silvery helmets’ steel, and long
The reach of javelins. Not doubting, go!
God furnished Moses tables on the dune,
How shall he succor you the less? And we
The females will no refuge take in walls
Of Jericho, that town of palm trees, nor
Shall we pause by the sculptured stones of Gilgal,
Nor will you at war confront the siege,
The hunger-gnawing siege, the vanquished rape,
Unless a forest pen you in where Rome’s
Machines can pick you off by tens – while we
Must watch them undermine the Temple footings,
Watch beetles eat through Herod’s flawless stone.
But go! Don’t question God’s ukase to arms!
It’s clarion as the hooting owl at dusk!
Let nothing change your strategy. Go make
Us safe in graveless death, expunge the blood
Of Sarah’s race, erase Tanakh, allow
A correspondent puff of air attest
To what our people bore, brought forth, conceived.
Or if not, free us from false hopes, enleague
Israel with Parthia, Armenia –
Extend your plot beyond Euphrates’ flux,
And to Bactria, homeland of the Parsi
Prophet Zoroaster, send a note.
Or Tesiphon, if asked, her king might loan
Rare cups of Murrhine clay, or grant us horse,
Endorse our anti-Roman cause with spears
And Scythian backward-shooting bowmen from
The Tigris’ eastern shore; storm-troopers, too,
From Babylon where Alexander died,
Who, once he conquered, made the world to bow,
To worship him a god. (Rome never dared
So much.) Alarm all of the Hebrew brothers
Living in the city Adiabene.
Be advised: help can be quite strong-willed.
And willful colts won’t keep their flashing heads.
Blessings on you, good fighting men! God bless
You all! Success and victory. Go rid
Our soil of Roman vermin and disease.
And yet, remember this: when Achish, king
Of Gath, gave refuge to Saul-hounded David,
Granting to him Ziklag (so that town
Pertaineth to the kings of Judah yet),
The Philistines took arms for warfare near
Gilboa. Saul saw battle-ready hosts
Encamped against him and he shook
With fear. Within an ephod box the Urim
And the Thummim stayed until the priest
Produced them to disclose God’s will by lot.
But Saul learned nothing from them, nor
From fervent prayers. Deriving nothing good
From nightmares, nor from prophets (Samuel
Was at this time deceased), Saul went disguised
To Endor where a wizard dwelled, a crone
Ugly of countenance: one eye was fogged,
Protuberant; a red and blackish gourd
Sprouting along one rotted row of teeth –
Malignant tumor – oozingly adorned
Her antediluvian face. The king asked her
To bring up from the house of death one he
Should name. She first demurred, due to
Saul’s law; so he disclosed himself, revoked
All threat to necromancers. Samuel
Summoned, appeared to her wrapped in white robes.
She screamed, Why did you say bring me up Samuel?
Why hast thou, Saul, disturbed me? Why disquiet
Me in my rest? asked Samuel. Saul stooped
And bent his face above the ground. Has God
Abandoned me? Why seek me out, since he
Answers you not? Thus spoke the priest and left
David then befriended his
Old enemies, newly betrayed his friends;
With Achish he’d have fought, had Achish him
Allowed. The counsel of Phoenicians was
That David stay back in Phoenicia while
They fought. Such wasn’t David’s choice. To fight
With Israel – it was no great sin in David’s eyes.
If Israel Israel fights, what keeps back Parthia?
If David dark-of-nighted then, who wouldn’t
Noon us now? Despite the crimes of David,
Persians lie. The Syrians scurry home.
And now we don’t the slight Phoenicians face.
For Rome is strong, and smart is she in strength;
Add fierceness to her smarts and strength and to
Ferocity add too her discipline.
Roman ships will come typhoon-like, as
Tsunami waves, destroying all your towers
Like windows dressed with little potted flowers.
I’ve seen the tragedies of learned Greeks!
Once, long ago ships changed to mermaids,
Or downy swans. Can women turn to doves?
And men to sparrows? The dawn was bronze
When children saw debris from heights descend
In fluttering arcs earthward, from doubled structures,
Quite vulnerable to rabid violence,
As frail as orange blossoms facing blizzards,
As bougainvilleas holding back a hurricane,
Or as a candle girl who eyes the Minotaur.
No happy transformation comes to these –
Unless one undetectable to senses
Of human beings. In such inclement world,
Dear friends, you breathe. Such instability
Mortal life affords – weather through. Brace up
And hold together, cling against the storms.
Trifles kill us, insignificant small things.
Weather through! Trust no alliances, Hebrews!
Teasing an emperor is hopeless war,
War unsupportable. A Jew is worth
A thousand men of Rome. Kill all of Rome
Or none at all. Kill all that call themselves
Romans or Rome will turn and pave these hills.
[Roman soldiers come and strangle her to death. Great confusion and shouting ensues. Horribly discordant music plays loudly. Thunder sounds. Lightning flashes. Spot lights flash on individual faces frozen in torment and rage. They all exit left raving after Zadok and Yacov except Eli, who walks after them slowly and despondently with a walking stick, and a ten-year-old Yeshua frozen watching them go. Yeshua looks to the right where John exited through a narrow cleft in the rocks. A boy’s voice from offstage calls): Yeshua! (Pause.) Yeshua! (Yeshua spins back to the left and thinks of going that way for a moment but then deliberately jogs to the right and exits where John exited. Lights go down.]