Issue 1, 2007
“Miriam” was previously published in
MIDSTREAM and in the anthology
THE MUSE STRIKES BACK.
“Ruth the Moabite Speaks” and Old Mother Sarah” were published in
So fair to look upon,
perfect in every limb,
you disobeyed the king
who, merry with wine,
dispatched for you
his chamberlain seven.
Bring Vashti the queen
before the king,
with the royal crown,
to show the guests
her grace and beauty.
You refused to come.
Your crown gilds the brow
of Esther the Jewess,
but no scribe recorded
the name of your daring.
Was the royal castle
a prison for you?
Were the mountains, valleys
more precious to you
than marble, gold, silver?
Did you dream of embraces
sweeter than the king’s
Where did you go?
NOT A VOICE
Whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house
To meet me…I will offer it up for a burnt offering.
Clad in festive robes,
timbrels in her hands,
she dances towards her father
in joyful innocence.
Nameless for eternity,
accessory to the victor,
a virgin sacrificed
in burnt offering.
No council of elders,
no curb of prohibition
grounded on Mount
Silence of heavens.
No angel to restrain
the murderous arm,
not a ram to redeem
a mere girl.
I, Rebekah, did not marry that weakling
who could not forget he had been offered
in burnt sacrifice by his own father.
I am Rebekah of Nachor, wife of the son
of the great man, Abraham, my hero.
I, successor of Sarah of golden earrings,
knew the blessing was Abraham’s, meant
not for the one who lives by killing,
the godless one who took Hittite wives,
but for the other, the gentle, the God-fearing.
I did not weep when Jacob, my dear son,
fleeing Essau’s revenge, was forced to leave.
I held him tenderly, in the early dawn,
stroked his cheeks, hung charms round his neck.
In my heart I knew I had lost him forever.
I had no regrets, neither then, nor ever,
not I, Rebekah, now old, but bending - never!
My miracle baby, I am Sarah,
My wilted breasts are filling
with sweet milk
for you, love
This Egyptian with broad hips
Since the birthing of her boy
she dares to talk back to me,
I despise her.
Her bastard must not inherit.
My miracle baby, I am Sarah,
OLD MOTHER SARAH
I am returning to you,
from whom I turned away,
whom I despised for being less than flawless,
for your silent complicity
in the barter of your beauty,
for your acquiescent silence
in a time of bloodthirsty challenge.
I chose to follow the patinated half-moon
of Diana’s bow,
read from the stony eyes
of Athena’s owl,
listen to calls of tight-lipped sirens,
but found only cold marble
turning to dust.
Matriarch of golden earrings,
descendant of that woman
molded from Adam’s rib,
by His decree,
outside the tent’s expanse,
your words were stripped of power.
I am returning to you
from whom I turned away.
My gift - words free of bondage.
Let me put my head on your bony shoulder,
listen to blood pulsing in our veins.
Take me back as I am,
a daughter - far from flawless.
When a man goes up to the summit of
espies a kind of sieve in sea
Of Tiberias, that is Miriam’s well
(LEGENDS FROM THE TALMUD AND MISHNA)
She who could see the light of days to come
She who shaped her words into a holy verse
She who was a gracious daughter and sister
She who eased the pains of women in labor
She who was there for women in their sorrow
She who was there for women in their joy
She who led them in their dance and song
She who was there to wipe the orphan’s tears
She whose well made wastelands grow figs and vines
She whose days were full, whose nights were empty
She whom the Almighty never made a house
She who yearning womb was never blessed
She who, alone of the two who sinned, was cursed
Given no mount for a rest, she lies
Unlamented in the wilderness of Zin.
And Moses went to meet his father-in-law, and bowed and kissed him;
and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent.
If bones and dust could speak,
she might tell us how frightened she was
when Moses, the man of sluggish tongue,
first entered her, with no word, no caress,
in the wedding tent, under the Median sky.
She might tell us how, on the way to Egypt,
she calmed God’s wrath by grabbing a flint
to hastily circumcise the baby-Eliezer.
This did not endear her in the Lord’s eyes.
Only a gruffy praise from the rescued one.
She might recall their meeting with Aaron.
He kissed Moses, greeted his brood with silence.
“Send them back,” he grumbled,” they will be a burden”
The ass overloaded, the two boys famished,
her heart heavy, they rode back to Median.
Children of Israel in the wilderness, safe,
her father brought the three back to Moses.
Cordial was Moses’ kiss on Jethro’s cheek.
The men entered the tent for a cozy chat.
The woman, arms around her sons, waited.
If bones and dust could speak, she might
admonish: O ye, fair damsels, listen
to this advice: beware of man of greatness,
or you may find him an indifferent father,
neglectful spouse and clumsy lover.
AS IT IS WRITTEN
Abigail got up hurriedly and rode away on her donkey…
FIRST SAMUEL 25:42
the rich widow
of Nabal the fool,
rode on her donkey
in a great hurry,
to keep house
with princess Mihal
of Saul loins,
Ahonoam of Jezreel,
Maccah of Geshur,
Haggith of Hebron,
Abital of Eglah,
and swarms of concubines.
vanished in the crowd
of quarrelsome wives
and swarms of concubines.
THE MOABITE SPEAKS
God’s angels led me
filed of Boaz
to glean behind his servants.
“Who is that alien woman
in widow’s frock?” I heard
For they saw
The fallen sheaves of grain
Lift their heads, grow wings
And nest in my
A DIALOGUE FOR THREE
Rachel: In the field stood this stranger.
He rolled the stone from the well’s mouth,
kissed me and wept. I didn’t know why.
The tears on his cheeks, it seemed to me,
were diamonds, so limpid and pure.
His eyes shone like water in the well.
Leah: Sister, you must know quite well,
sinful is the kiss of a stranger.
His breath may be sweet, but intent impure.
Did he kiss you hard in the mouth?
I wouldn’t let him, if he had come to me.
I’m annoyed with you, and you know why.
Rachel: I have not sinned. And here is why:
He told me then, there, by the well,
we were his kin, Father, you, and me.
I brought him home. He is no stranger.
Oh, you should see him, his sensuous mouth,
his head of gold, features so pure!
Leah: No beauty, but strong and pure
am I. Older too. No reason why
You should marry first. Your scarlet mouth,
Gem of a nose, sparkling eyes, you know well,
Will soon bring you another stranger.
Jacob should, by rights, belong to me.
Rachel: Years have passed. Now you, like me,
are his. My sisterly love, once so pure,
gone. You seem to me quite a stranger.
How I envy your swollen womb! Why
shouldn’t I have a child? Though I know well
he loves me. No lies out of his mouth.
Leah: Bitterness dwells in my mouth
When he speaks your name while entering me.
But he doesn’t mind my thighs, so well
embracing his. No man’s love is pure.
I envy your beauty. This is why
To me you always were a stranger.
Jacob: Rachel, dying? Why? Two orphans…me…
My tears so pure, that day, by the well,
were lover’s tears, not a stranger’s. Oh, your mouth…