The book opens with the image of a lonely city. Her name (the Poet imagines her mainly as a woman) is Zion, but we modern folks would probably just call her Jerusalem.
Why is she so distressed? Well, back in the day, this city used to be the Queen Bee around these parts. She was super important. The wife of God. A princess and ruler. The mother of dragons (Okay, that last one was actually from Game of Thrones, but you get the point. Zion was a big deal.)
But now she's been invaded by an unnamed enemy (although we Bible scholars know it's Babylon) and her fortunes have taken a serious turn for the worse.
Her city's deserted and turned to rubble. She's a widow. And she's under the thumb of a foreign king.
Needless to say, this has all got her pretty depressed. She spends most of her time weeping.
No one can help her get out of this funk. Her lovers aren't much use and her friends have turned against her.
Lots of people in the Kingdom of Judah (the state she called home) have been kicked out by the Babylonians, too. They've been forced into exile in Babylon.
No one can come into Zion for festivals or religious rituals anymore. The Temple's destroyed. Gone.
Instead, her enemies are in charge and they're mocking her in the streets.
Why, God? Why?
Why did all this happen? Well, it was sort of God's doing. Because the people in Zion were so sinful and disobedient, God let the Babylonians take over the city.
Zion's children have all been taken prisoner. She's totally lost her luster and her kings are kingdomless and weak. And her enemies totally keep gloating about their victory.
Even though she's knows she's done wrong, Zion cries out to God in agony. (Are you there God? It's me, Zion.) She wants him to see what's happened to her.
The Babylonians have utterly destroyed the city. They've even invaded the Temple (a place where heathens were most definitely not welcome).
Zion's people are starving. It's a pathetic picture.
And God allowed all this to happen. He was angry, so he set fires that burned her down to her bones. He basically handed victory to the Babylonians. When Zion's warriors were out there fighting, he didn't even lift a finger to help them. He just stomped on Zion like she was a grape he was making into wine. Manischewitz, no doubt. Harsh.
God might have allowed all this to happen, but Zion doesn't blame him for it. "The Lord is in the right," she says. He usually is. That's one of the advantages of being God.
Of course, that doesn't make her any less miserable. She weeps some more and mourns for her children. Some are in exile and some have been killed.
The Babylonians are pretty psyched that God has turned on his chosen people.
Throughout the poem, Zion cries out to God in misery, but never asks him for anything. Now she has one request.
She tells God to give the Babylonians a taste of his justice, too. They're a sinful people, who don't even believe in him. They totally deserve it.