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Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal 12.1 (2007) 65-67

Murmurings of Miriam
Yiskah Rosenfeld

Inside the cloud     the voice
    shrouds my skin     speaks me in gold flame and silver smoke
just once    to be inside of something    to be story and not prelude     not aside
    but inside    wear holiness like a second skin    once I stood
at the edges of sea    of story     I sent a baby boy    down the Nile
    floating toward myth     I dance between the lines    of midrash
and memory     listen to my hum     if only to hear myself    keep my self
    from disappearing     slave to the story    I give it drink

Moses' gift to dry up water splitsea
    mine     to draw water     from depths    find it
        mistress of    belowbeneathbetween     penetrate sand
    listen     for the still small pool     sing water to surface    Miriam
bitter sea     snake charmer     wandering well [End Page 65]
When the words rise up     burst from undergroundmidbar     midaber midaberet
      my voice     dangerous     not chosen disobedient
    suddenly my name     called     Aaron and Miriam
my name     swept up in the cloud     icy smoke     wet
    fire     bittersweet     vaporous voice     scolding
paying attention     any attention     to be called     the seer seen
    woman     sister     prophet     daughter     threat

Then in an instant the cloud     lifted     almost took my name     lost
    but look:
      my skin as snow
    white     unwritten     wild     wet
    the voice     tattooed in flesh     subtle shades of sands at noon
    shifting shadows     under moon     Read my skin
like fortune tellers read tea leaves     like trackers map journeys
    the future shining like new snow     a timbrel     a cup

Skin parched outside     inside a well     please, please don't heal me now
    this     is my     kiss of G-d     marred garments
souvenir of saliva     rough desert beauty     imperfect
    secret moisture seeping     through cracks
    Story speaking     white as snow     no
white     as paper     skin     as parchment     G-d writing herself
    on my bodyspit     spit-fire     smoke-rain
air and fire     on the dust     of my     skin     the well
    dwelling within

But Aaron and Moses     brothers     want to fix me     erase
my gifts     my power     my miracle wounds
      please G-d heal her now     I don't want     to be healed
stripped naked         of difference     normal again
    on the outside     the woman buried     white tombstone     of text
they were always     so jealous     stripped of godliness     stripped
    of voice     like a leper     estranged     silent
    sent outside the story     don't you remember     who saved you? [End Page 66]
In 7 days my skin was normal, surfaces smooth and solid, but I never healed
      skin bound so tight     gagged no place     for the water to rise
    for the words     to well up     the people mourned
even G-d cried     disguised tears as spit     does he think I don't know
    the nuances     of wet?     and the well was silent     riverbeds dried up
      but under the surface     of story     of parchment
    the water flows     unnamedstill speaking     if you listen
listen closely     you will hear the     soft murmur     of     rushing water
     it sounds     like a song


I could have helped Moses even after death
when I turned to sand became rock
if he had spoken to the rock I would have heard
and opened up for him the well inside
but he struck the rock
he struck the rock
he never understood how to coax a woman's desires
from the protective shell of her body

Yiskah Rosenfeld holds an MFA in poetry and an MA in jurisprudence and social policy. She teaches classes in Judaism, feminism, and creativity and served as coordinator of Kol Isha, the first Bay Area conference on Jewish women's poetry. An award-winning poet, her poems and essays appear in publications including Yentl's Revenge, Jewish Women in America, and Lilith Magazine. Now a rabbinical student, she is writing on Biblical encounters between women and G-d for a Jewish women's studies certificate through Temple University.



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pp. 65-67
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Archived 2012
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