A poem about Lot’s Wife

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Idit* Means Witness

I: Saturation

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.

 

II: Alchemy

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

natural deposits,

salt licks,

stumbling blocks:

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.”

 

III: Epiphany

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.

 

–Robin Cohn

 

* Traditional name of Lot’s wife (Safer ha Yashar, 65)

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