Zipporah

Zipporah (left) from Botticelli's Trial of Moses.

Zipporah (left) from Botticelli’s Trial of Moses. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following poem is from A Matter of Mind (Foot Hills Publishing, 2004).

Zipporah

(I)
Egyptian, why’d you come if all you want’s
To sit and stare at cracks that climb the walls?
My breast that longs to feel your hand caress
It lies here bare while you ignore my needs.
You might as well not stay as make me feel
I have no husband. Tell me what I’ve done
To make you turn your face away from me.
Please help me understand, Moses, why you
Have shut me so completely from you life.

I wish I knew your dreams. Each night I lie
Beside you while you toss and cry out names —
Egyptian names I’ve never heard you say
But names demanding terror even here.
I want to see the things you see, but how?
Aren’t I your wife? And didn’t Father take
You in, make you a son, and give you all
He has? Then why do you reject us now
With silence, Moses? Tell me what I’ve done.

(II)
Zipporah, near Mt. Horeb, where I take
The sheep to feed, I found a bush still green
And unconsumed by desert sun. The sheep
Won’t touch it. And as I wondered at it, I
Removed my sandals. I felt as if I stood
On holy ground. Then to this place a man
Who’d fled from Egypt came and asked
If I could give him water, and I did.
And while he drank, he told a brutal tale

Of evil winding in Egyptian sands,
Of Hebrew bodies covered with raw sores,
Of babies starved because their mothers, not
Allowed near wells, go dry. And as he talked
I raised my hands to look at them. Look here.
This skin, Zipporah, it’s their skin. Their sores
Have covered both my palms. I dropped my staff.
I stared at him. I stammered. Then I asked
Could no one help, and all he said was, “You.”

(III)
No, Moses, don’t think that. Come here and lie
Beside me. There is nothing you can do.
You left them long ago. Lie here with me.
We are your kin, and you’ve become like us.
This desert land, Egyptian, is your home.
Let Pharaoh answer for his sins. Don’t take
Them on yourself. The people there don’t want
Your help. They ran you off. They’re Pharaoh’s slaves.
You have your life. Leave justice up to God.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2013.

5 thoughts on “Zipporah

  1. Very deep poem. Very deep. I’ve read it twice and still am not sure what I read. My first thought was…things haven’t changed that much between some men and women. Then there is all that religion too.

    Have a terrific day. 🙂

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