Reaching a different readership
Childbirth psalms

This week's portion: aftermath


The oaks touch branches
like a gaggle of old women
taking comfort in fingers brushing
as they stand and sway.

A man sits in the entrance
of his tent. Heat shimmers
though beneath the trees
if he holds still, it's not so bad.

Hours later, the rug
is littered with tufts of flatbread
tipped with labneh and zaatar
and shreds of meat left behind.

Outside the door, brass basins
for the washing of feet
shimmer, their water cloudy
from recent use.

Behind the tent, in the grove
a woman leans against a tree
and blinks away tears
but doesn't speak.

This week we're in parashat Vayera, which contains a number of powerful stories: Abraham's visit from the angels beneath the oaks of Mamre, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the birth of Isaac and eventual exile of Hagar and Ishmael, the akedah (binding of Isaac.) Any one of these narratives could give rise to endless commentaries and poems. I chose a piece of the story which spoke particularly to me this year.

This week's prompt at ReadWritePoem is setting the scene, so I aimed to hint at one of the stories in this week's parsha through showing the scene without any of the dialogue or action. I'm curious to know whether the poem makes sense to those who don't intimately know this section of Genesis, or whether it requires familiarity with the text at which it hints.

It's a fascinating story: God appears to Abraham, then three mysterious strangers appear (always understood in Jewish tradition to be malachim, "messengers" or "angels"), then there's the feast and the promise that despite their mutual advanced age, Abraham and Sarah will have a son within one year's time. This year I'm particularly struck by what it must have felt like for them to learn that news -- to know that their lives were going to change irrevocably in ways they couldn't yet imagine.

Other people's responses to this week's RWP prompt will be linked at this week's Get Your Poem On post. Enjoy!