Idit* Means Witness
The dehydration starts slowly,
a little sip of the sea every day:
when she doesn’t smile for the warmth of her bed,
for the appleness of a child’s cheek.
The rocks piled high on her chest
feel better than caresses
because she can make the tightness last forever
and mean everything.
She’s too angry to stumble in the dark,
sulfur clouds of Sodom burning.
She shouts, arm raised, fist tight,
punching the ashy air.
Not lost because she isn’t looking
for a way out, just crystal clarity.
She cries glassy tears,
hot on her cheek, burning into prisms.
For a brief moment it rains in the desert.
Large drops plop in the dirt.
Not enough water to break the surface
tension. The sun and wind dance
the rain before it soaks in.
Before she thinks, she looks back
to see God looking the other way.
In the heat she sweats the salt out,
cramping, vomiting, confused,
straining her heart,
reduced by her concentration.
She soaks up a bit of moisture
from the dews and downpours.
The water slowly leaches out the salt
and suffuses her with stone.
Osmosis quietly exchanges sand for brine.
She is surrounded by other
women who have narrowed
themselves down to the elements,
the deliberate essentials.
They stand silent, tight and full,
longing and unmovable
in their constipation.
Time stands still, it’s surface
smoothed out. Nothing to hurry to.
Inside, the minerals feel
the same: resignation and peace surrendering
to each other.
The sun makes her a sundial
telling time, telling her story.
She says, “I am not going to melt
away to nothing. I have two girls who think
the world has ended.
I will stand here until they remember
I have not left them, I did not give up.”
The stone looks back to see
its shadow. It is a wondrous moment
of conversion. She looks back at the whole
of her life, all of it.
She looks back at God, all of God.
She wants the deadly embrace
with God’s darkness.
And the darkness touches back,
and holds her, raises her high
above her blood. Pressures
from the core of the earth
lift her upward from her bed of salt
until she can hold herself
firmly in place, standing her ground.
From the lowest place on earth,
a desolate place where it is impossible to sink,
nothing stands between her and God.
They seep into each other.
Rolling her name around on our tongue
we make life savory,
cure a little,
preserve what we thought
was forgotten. If we love her
it will be with a sprinkling of salt
on the challah, with tears, dark earth
and a dusty taste in our mouths.
* Traditional name of Lot’s wife (Safer ha Yashar, 65)