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Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues 8 (2004) 245-250

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Four Poems

Rebecca and Esau

Now Isaac loved Esau, because the hunt was in his mouth; but Rebecca loves Jacob.
(Genesis 25:28)

After he slithered up to my Sabbath
And blew them out,
I slapped him.

"You hit me!"
He, as astonished as I —
      The perfect mother
      With the patience to water
           caravans of camels —
Could hit,
Would hit,
My son.

"You hit me!"
And he began shaking;
His body, unraveling,
As if all his stars had vanished
And all his bows were snakes;
As if all his vines had withered
And all his seas were ice.

"You hit me!"
I stretched out my hand
To his shoulder.
"Don't touch me!"
The boy turned and ran out to the field
(Of himself?
Of me?)

I lie down on my bed.
And I know:
After I hit my son,
Sabbath candles
Will never give light,
Never shine
For him,
My son,
Again. [End Page 245]

Dinah's Candle

Afterwards she [Leah] gave birth to a daughter; and she named her Dinah.
(Genesis 30:21)

I love all my children.
But my youngest, my only daughter, whom I treasure,
Dinah, my quiet little girl,
Is starlight;
Never fighting or arguing with her brothers,
Always sharing all she has.
And though she is only five, she can read

She is starlight for my husband too.
When he comes home in the evening,
All the boys run out to him
And he embraces each son, kisses each one;
But Dinah —
Dinah he picks up high and whirls her around
Until she laughs; and he laughs too,
Hugging her in his arms.
"My sparkle, my glitter," he whispers.

Last Friday, my husband told Dinah
She too could light Sabbath candles —
The one moment, in a household full of boys,
When women reign:
Rachel first, then I, then Bilhah and Zilpah
Close our eyes and bless the candles
As all the boys stand quietly and watch.

When my Dinah took the match her father gave her,
Her hand trembled, and nearly dropped it.
She blessed the candle, then turned
And kissed me. [End Page 246]

But every night since then I dream
That all the other candles burn well, burn tall,
And ascend to the sky as stars
Proliferating into constellations,
Propagating galaxies.
But Dinah's candle flickers and goes out,
A meteor that flares up for a moment in the night sky
And is seen no more.
No matter how many times she tries to light it,
Her candle will not burn.

Why won't her candle find light?
Or warmth?
Or flame? [End Page 247]

Lullaby for Moses

When she [Yocheved] couldn't hide him any longer, she took an ark made of papyrus for him, and lined it with clay and pitch; she placed the child inside and put it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.
(Exodus 2:3)


Hush, don't cry,
The reeds and water will shelter you;
Hush, don't cry,
My son, my
Little goat that Abba bought for two pennies.
No cat will scratch you,
No dog will bite you,
No stick will beat you.
The reeds and water will guard you,
I swear.

My son, may you grow to be a scholar,
The letters of the Torah —
The raisons and almonds you'll eat;
Its verses—your milk,
Its words—your honey.
Hush, don't cry,
My son, my yingele.
      How can I hide you?
      How can I hold you?
The reeds and water have sworn
To watch over and guide you
To a haven. [End Page 248]

Pharaoh's daughter:

Hush, don't cry.
The reeds and water have sheltered you and brought you to me,
Little one.
No fire will burn you,
No ox will gore you,
No butcher, no angel of death...


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pp. 245-250
Launched on MUSE
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