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  • Leviticus 15: 20, and: Miriam’s Slip of Tongue, and: Lot’s Wife, and: Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?
  • Raisa Tolchinsky

Leviticus 15:20

“Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean.”

anything she lies on shall be lit    with gold, & the birds will arrive flocking, the skywill undo itself before her    into bluethen ichor moon    that beckons the date trees,the anemones dropping their red    leaves into the river’s edge—      touch her bed &        suddenrain on the roof, touch,      not water but milk& honey pooling    in the crevices of the wallsnow watch    her mirror split open with beeswhen she looks—they land      on her hands but do not sting    as shethe sky, no dust        but bloomso touch what she has touched        now gold:the moon the lamp the combthe room heated without fire, the frayed        fabric knitting itself back together— [End Page 119] two turtledoves & two pigeons land    on the roof, they are glimmering& hers—        she will name them—    they are so alive & so clean [End Page 120]

Miriam’s Slip of Tongue

“Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrelin her hand, and all the women went out after her in dancewith timbrels.”

–Exodus 15:20

“As the cloud withdrew from the Tent, there was Miriamstricken with snow-white scales!”

–Numbers 12:10

“Moses’s and Aaron’s sister was the true source ofthe mayyim hayyim (waters of life) in the desert.”

–Shira D. Epstein

“Dare you see a Soul at the ‘White Heat?’”

–Emily Dickinson

who had time to shake  the tambourine?i danced in the desert’s dark  humming with a grief

that struck my skin in patches  peeling back the rinduntil my heart was  offered up & flung

to a snow that would not fall.  desert’s white heat—everywhere & everywhere i walked,  the water. all they wanted

was a dowsing wand: a woman  who would diginstead of speak [End Page 121]

Lot’s Wife

“Lot‘s wife looked back, and she thereupon turned into a pillar of salt.”

–Genesis 19:26

Husband has forgotten my name but notthe angels’ syllables, their oily wings& pale pink tongues. Husband has a housewith the roof ripped off—there is noinside, even the daughters offered up.    Eve calls on her old rotarytelephone from somewhere out West—She heard the news. Her news: no gardensbut land the color of rust. Now Eve hasone wild Appaloosa & three tubes ofblue-black lipstick. Eve says, it’s better to eatthe apple, better to be salt than bread.look, babycakes … there’s always another gardenfull of old stones. Fire & brimstonemight slick the eyes back inside the head    but only for a moment.Watch as Husband bounces back & forthfor his kings. Watch as the city burns.Of course I am changed from the looking.    less about faith and more about faultlines,1 said the geologist. God forgot about rainwhen he made his monument.the geologist said        the whole area is unstable.    chunks of salt land on the highway,      big as cars. [End Page 122]

Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?

      the word plague—from Latin, plangere “to strike, lament      (by beating the breast).”this night each poem  is a small cry or flydropped in the wine,    each place-settingsplattered with blood      on a table salted and strungwith garlic.        someone says freedom.someone says embrace    in a tinny voice,their face stitched into a computer’s quilt.2    i’ve searched my pockets for all the crumbsand fed them to the birds    who forget to stay silenteven at midnight—their song a constricted heart    i’ve lay to rest with cedar smokedin a hamsa’s outline—slow down, little one    i say, taste the tears.      the seas are silent but circle uson driest land. each stem      dipped into grief is a partingand a return.      what is the differencebetween elijah and the ghost      you still love? let us arrive,in this returning...


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