These poems deal with the perspective of
Jochebed, mother of the three heroes of the exodus. The voice is hers except for Miriam's after her mother's death, in the last two verses of Moses.
I am a slave, Israeli chattel stock,
intended seed, a numbered grain of sand,
of vested hills as far as eye could see,
and yet enslaved to dread the auction block.
A cruel jest, that whispered promised land
while Yakov's waiting heirs are property.
More distant than El Shaddai's promises
to Abraham, is time to rest, or thought
of love between exhausted man and wife.
Amram and I are one. Ones finding bliss is
not ours to guarantee, but Aaron brought
new hope tomorrow birthed a better life.
No angel visitation spoke the word
that from this womb three prophets birth,
Aaron to be high priest unto Shalom,
his sister's freedom songs the gathered heard.
At eighty Moses called ten plagues to earth,
Red Sea and sand eruct the chosen home.
To mortals Timelessness seems mystery,
His methodology so unlike theirs
for He is faithful to His spoken word.
From birth this son was wise in history
of patriarchs, the bondage of their heirs
caught fire in him as Bethel's voice was heard.
He stood beside the spokesman of I Am
who told a pharaoh, "Let My people go",
before pronouncing plague and pestilence
upon the house whose doorpost lacked the lamb,
that holy sign death angels would foreknow,
but Ramses' son, a hard heart's recompense.
He knew no fear, but was a man of peace
who chose the compromise in politics;
when forty days had passed with Moses gone
to bring down Sinai to man, to ease
the outcry for return to Egypt's bricks,
he struck a golden calf to gaze upon.
Miriam, our first gifted child,
a quick and clever youth beyond her age,
as guardian of the bulrushed ark of pitch,
wise pharaoh's daughter easily beguiled,
suggesting I, the nurse, she should engage,
thus Moses had grown up with Egypt's rich.
While safely through the Red Sea Israel walked,
she danced before the Lord in ecstasy,
and sang for days prophetic songs of praise;
when Caleb's wife, prophetically she talked
for him as one of forty spies who'd see
that promised land from patriarchal days.
This select vessel had her feet of clay.
"Have we not also prophesied?" she spoke
in momentary envy of the one
who led. Made leporous, she heard Moses pray
her restoration, and seven days awoke
outside the camp, as new as dawning sun.
To Egypt, Josef's brothers came and stayed
to multiply till numbered more than those
whose land it was, and pharaoh had decreed
us slaves. When growing more, a law was made
to kill Israeli newborn sons, to close
the lists on armies from an alien seed.
Though praying for a barren womb, a son
was born to die. Those labored pangs I cursed,
to feel the body torn, to scream in pain
yet know before this breast had feasts begun
its little guest at pharaoah's word was burst,
aborting dreams which could not live again.
Before the midwife came at light of day,
within a woven basket pitched with tar
I hid him in the Nile where nobles bathe.
The miracle of Moses royal stay,
a princess claimed the son pharaoh would bar,
made me wetnurse, her son and mine to save.
He was in line to sit on Egypt's throne
at forty years, but Moses saw a slave
abused, one of his clansmen was struck down.
Enraged he killed. I begged him to atone,
to flee alone to Midian, a grave
and ruined heir to Egypt's fabled crown.
If ruler, he could choose to bless his own,
instead his soul endured a wilderness
of arid rocky waste. Zipporah came,
mature, sedate, a desert blossom known
to water at the well. Denied access
till Moses fought, her life was his to claim.
She bore him sons, reflective quietude
her gift, as well, to one who could not find
direction for the soul, until the Flame
of Fire would not consume the bush. That Food,
inspired his will, spoke Purpose to the mind,
new goals were etched, and gave by faith, His name.
Ten signs were given to change a pharaoh's will:
a bloody Nile three days for all to drink,
a cloud of gnats that landed Egypt breathes,
a plague where only royal livestock dies,
a hailstone fury killing man and beast,
a Stygian darkness to endure by day.
a layer of frogs that caused the world to stink,
a swarm of bottle flies to bring disease.
a flood of running boils in ears and eyes,
a sky filled black as locusts spread to feast
a plague on unsprinkled homes the firstborn pay
The plagues cost sons, Josef's promise to fulfill.
Four hundred thirty years from birth to wait
the exodus, its joy of being free,
exultant liberty in dance and praise
six hundred thousand exit Rameses gate.
In youthful haste the promised land I'll see
to spend in gratitude my few last days.
The Great Sea road to Zion is not long,
with caravans and forts along the way.
Why then the Red Sea at out backs, the dust
of chariots too near? The winds will throng
her waters back and on dry land display
the route to home, but swallow the unjust.
When through the sea the ecstasy would last
the weary miles till rest at Sinai,
where Moses saw the Lord in radiance.
The moral law in stone was etched. The past
would not stay past, misguided grumblers try
a slave's return, the golden calf for guidance.
By disbelief undone, her deepest grief
had won and I, her daughter Miriam,
have laid to rest the light that gave me birth.
The wilderness is still our home, relief
for none alive, a generation's come
this far to die, poor rebels doomed to earth.
Remembering her I wept at Joshua's side
before the Jordan, as the people hushed
while Moses climbed his last to Nebo's heights.
My brothers gone, a generation died
yet Israel oft recalls, in victory flushed,
these heroes He embraced to win their rights.
Women of the Word
Poems from the Goober Tree http://nathoo.wustl.edu/goober_tree.htm
[This message has been edited by H. Arlequin (edited 05-04-2000).]