Note: “Yosef” is the earlier, more accurate Hebrew pronunciation of the name “Joseph”.
The good Lord knows I am a simple man, Miryam;
I took you for wife when you were too young to know
sunlight is a blessing, rain more so
and the earth is hard.
I know how to make things strong with wood lashed tight,
oak gnarled fast with whorls and spins of starlight before time
knew where its palms started and its heels began,
stretched taunt from thither to yon.
I do not know how to love you right.
My father spoke with your father and our mothers
murmured soft of the joy of date-palm wine and warm grapes,
roast goat and leeks spread wide like wings of water fowl,
folded neatly beneath the breast.
I did not know your name until after we danced.
I made your father three oak cabinets,
my sister Anne six straight chairs in fair exchange for a fat pink sow
and worked three years of days
I should not have worked
When the Lord spoke to me in dreams and gave me reason to spit hot smoke,
I made Levi a chest of drawers so fine he had no choice
but to dye your linen the color of dawn before the first rain.
You smiled small and turned your head away, folded it away.
You do not watch me work. You draw water from the well
with the other women and silently sometimes smile.
You speak with doves and sometimes
drop our clay dishes after we are done.
You cover the fires in the night with soft ash
and keep their warmth for later.
I pick the trees that are fine and strong, the line pure, though the limbs may not look it.
When you loosed him from yourself, you worked with silence.
No stinging sob burst from your lips, for there was no floodgate save
your heels dug hard in the good earth.
Through your twisted, your pursed, your clenched,
your agony did not find relief in sound.
Instead, your eyes
made hymns to the pain you bore.
© 2015 Anna-Christina Betekhtin, All Rights Reserved.