Yosef’s Lament

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

for you.

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.


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