Jonah’s prayer

by Aviva Dautch

A radical human posture between death and life.
     – Avivah G. Zornberg

At the other end of the known world
a man with no credentials but his father’s name
responds to God’s call
                                    by fleeing.

His hope is to travel
            as far away as possible;
the theological absurdity
of such an attempt never arises
for, although we question him,
                                                his flight
is a provocative
                        but comprehensible act.

He is a small figure
overwhelmed by gigantic forces,
a child who shrinks
                        to foetal size.

The insistent verbs of descent carry him
            downwards:

into the ship’s hold,
            the whale’s belly,
                        a posture of regressed stupor,

into complete withdrawal
                                    from consciousness.

Only then can he condense
            the velocity of his flight
into prayer –

for what is left
is the internal silence
            at the heart of all stories

and replacing silence,
                                    the soul’s response.