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Ohalah 2010, seen from afar

This week's portion: labor


[T]he Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women: they are vigorous. Before the midwife can come to them, they have given birth. (Exodus 1:19)

Shifrah and Puah, sent to strangle
any Hebrew boys who survived

the dangerous passage
through the narrowest of straits

cupped basins to catch vomit
and counted breaths between pains.

They cradled feet up and open,
stretched each woman's fingers down

so she could feel the tiny head
emerging, changing everything.

Pharaoh didn't understand
no one births a child alone.

This week we're reading parashat Shemot, the first portion in the book of Shemot (in English, called Exodus.) Rereading the portion this year, I was struck by the lines about the Egyptian midwives commanded by Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew boy-children. I've always been impressed by their willingness to stand up to Pharaoh, to offer him the bald-faced lie that they haven't been helping the Hebrew women labor. This week's Torah poem emerged out of that verse.

A ReadWritePoem note: I didn't manage to write to the prompt this week (I barely managed to write anything at all!) but if you want to see what other folks did with this week's prompt, check out this week's Get Your Poem On post. To RWP'ers: continuing apologies for my inability to read and comment on your work! I'm managing to post this because I have tied my fussy boy to my chest and am typing standing up in the kitchen while swaying side to side, but it's not exactly a comfortable or ergonomic way to read or write...