- Miriam:Not An American Success Story
There were no medals, crowns, awards for me. I'm not an American Success Story: Work hard, pay off the mortgage, drive a second car, shop at the trendiest Malls, send your 2.5 children to priciest schools. Those bourgie values held no water here. What counted here: my baby brother could die so I waded into the Nile behind him, negotiated with Pharaoh's daughter, and struck a good deal. And then, when we crossed the Sea of Reeds, leaving bondage behind, I crescendoed into song. (You can hear me still in Debbie Friedman's Song of the Shekhinah, or Ofra Haza or Joplin or Nina Simone and in your voice too!) How we leaped in the dance of the newly freed slave. [End Page 72] Ahead, our hardest work: undoing chains around our hearts. Meanwhile, we slurped manna and entered our long dialogue with the desert. Then, when Moses machisomo'd, Aaron and I stared him down. I was punished for that with the disease of the despised, then exiled. When I returned, my words and acts were erased: A new era began. So the women and I held secret meetings, practiced guerrilla theater, sat in circles and wrote poems for tomorrow, when our words and acts are reborn in the women who follow us, our daughters of the New Moon. And this time, not Moses, but I will descend from Mt. Sinai with 2 new Commandments: Welcome the Return of the Women. And listen while they speak.
Pesha Joyce Gertler is poet, teacher and founder of a women's writing community (in 1981 and still thriving). She grew up in Brooklyn in an extended family of storytellers who taught her how language can open doors. Her immigrant grandmother who could neither read nor write in English taught her how language can also shut doors. She has walked in between these two worlds ever since, especially last year, as Seattle's Poet Populist. (For more details, see www.peshajoycegertler.com).