The Phoenician Woman

She has followed us all day, master, hook-nosed, insistent, yapping at our heels in commercial Greek

Her husband a boat-builder – those boats of gopher wood –

Her daughter, it seems, possessed of a devil which you, master, a Jew, are supposed to exorcise.

Talk to her, master, send her away.

Tell her you came to children of Israel, not to Phoenician dogs.

He turned on me sternly. But his voice smiled.

‘You hear what they say?’ he demanded.

‘Is it right, do you think, taking the children’s food and tossing it to the dogs?’

‘Master’, I replied, feeling the bond between us (A humour we shared alone)

‘even dogs are allowed scraps from the table when the children reject them’.

His face smiled too.

‘You have understanding and faith, mother: it will happen as you desire.’

It was true. Coming to the hill above Tyre,

Weary beyond all weariness, I fell on my knees,

Letting my eyes search where feet could not follow.

Looking down on the cluster of evening ships,

The causeway with its moving chain of carriers

And the heap of murex-shells outside the dye-works.

I saw her coming from the bazaars to meet me,

Her white conspicuous among blues and purples.

She did not need to speak. She walked up the hill as a girl walks whose arms are her own.

From The Witnesses by Clive Sansom

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