Beckett: Poetry – No. 1460, Who Is My Neighbour?

This poem is a midrash. A midrash is an old Jewish oral tradition where the priests used a narrative from Scripture to tell a story in order to make a moral or theological point. They would explore a “gap.” For example, in this poem, the gap I explore is: What was the inquisitive lawyer thinking during Jesus’ parable in Luke 10:25-37? How did he respond? Because the text doesn’t exactly tell us. I explore that here.

An expert lawyer,
I asked the Teacher
what to do for eternal life.
His answer was my delight.

Thinking myself clever,
I asked, “Who’s my neighbour?”
But within this parable
I discovered something terrible.

Why would the priest help the man?
He needs to cleanse his hands.
Even a Levite passes by?
Who even is this Rabbi?

To my dismay, a “good” Samaritan
helps and even pays for medicine.
Who loved his neighbour?
There’s only one answer.

This Teacher is like the Samaritan?
O, how embarrassing.
Go and do likewise?
What a silly thing to advise.

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