Miriam's Matzah

During this season in the Jewish calendar, we read the story of how Miriam challenged the authority of Moses. She was stricken with whitened skin and exiled into the desert for seven days. Some see this event as a punishment for sin, while others see it as an attack on Miriam's spiritual power. In this poem, Judith Schmidt imagines the seven days of exile as a visionquest in which Miriam recovers from the trauma of slavery and becomes ready to face her future.

The whirling angel brought me
to a garden of desert roses
hidden behind a lichen covered wall
In this hushed place
leprous flowers cry out
from my body

A scent of mercy lingers
blankets my open skin
faint whispers
near the yellow roses:
the angels in prayer,
wings breathing in, breathing out

I take sanctuary for seven days:
for eyes to wander inward,
to lay on sheddings of old skin,
for silence to slowly sink down
beneath arid spaces,
reaching into deep waters,
drawing forth
unleavened soul songs
new, never uttered

On the eighth day,
an angel raises me
out of her white fire.
In the hush of dawn
she binds me in new skin.
A luminous leaf,
I reach
toward the quiet light

My tongue has been blessed with song
lit with the dew of manna
Come, I am ready to cross this desert

Judith Sarah Schmidt is a poet in the New York area.

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