2015-2016, Poem


Featured in the 2016 Spring Issue of Rambunctious

By Michale Schueler, ’18

Alone. I remember being alone. I called out to my brothers. My brothers, who had once called me their dearest sister, their light of hope, had since gone, but I called anyway. I screamed apologies to Moses. I screamed apologies to God.

I didn’t want any of this! I didn’t mean any of this! I swear! I thought, my mind becoming sluggish with the heat and sickness. I was only aware of the sand in my lungs as I flung myself to the ground. I fumbled to tear my clothes in mourning. I struggled to sit up, feeling weaker with each movement.

My husband had left. My brothers had left. My God had left. Adonai had stricken me with this illness, Adonai was to blame. Or was it Moses?

My baby brother was not made for leading a people. He was too rash, too temperamental. He asked for too much. Of course the men had wanted the golden calf to worship. Of course the men needed reassurance that someone was out there. It didn’t matter how wrong they were. It mattered how to teach them. It mattered to have patience, compassion, understanding, and love.

My brother had smashed God’s words, those tablets, to the ground, the words that had made us a real nation, with a code of conduct, with law. The smashing had awoken the men, but it also had awoken me. No human had any right to cause ruin to Adonai’s words, to commit that sacrilege. No human, except, apparently, Moses.

I had called him out on it. I had told him that he was no leader. And Aaron had joined me. But it was me who was punished. He had left, safe.

And now I waited. I waited as my people milled around in camp. I could hear them whispering Why are we here? Why are we waiting?

And I heard Aaron and Moses answering: We are waiting for Miriam.

I could see the men’s faces as they told their wives and daughters that this is what happens when you speak out against a male. I could see those wives and daughters be forever silenced.

I did not want them to wait. I wanted to be healed so I could run so far away they couldn’t find me. So far that this affliction, with it’s flaky whiteness and painful reminder of what I had said about Tziporah, wouldn’t follow.

Tziporah. That girl who still had no idea what she had been thrust into. That girl who was no Israelite, no kin of mine. That girl that had my brother hanging on her every word. She did not know what I had suffered, what we as a people had suffered. She had no recollection of a whip digging into the skin on your back, no scars. And it was hurting Moses’s cause, as he had no idea either. He had been Egyptian royalty. He had never watched his friend be whipped to death. He had killed a man, and suddenly he understood all our troubles. The people hadn’t liked this. I had simply wanted to help my baby brother. I had simply wanted to help.

Perhaps I should have held my tongue, kept quiet about Moses’ wife and her non- Hebrew ethnicity. Kept quiet about Moses’ leadership skills, or lack thereof. Or just have had Aaron speak up. However, I was soon realizing that it wouldn’t have made a difference. I would still be punished for questioning Moses, even if it were only a thought.

I wondered why. Why Adonai had seen it fit to strike me with this affliction. My God had always been on my side, blessing me with the gifts of song, leadership, and midwifery. Yes, I had been a slave. Yes, I had wounds and scars that would never fully heal. But, I got to see Moses with my mother. I kept families together after the terrible edict saying all baby boys must be murdered. I was a skilled liar, so much so I tricked the Pharaoh after the edict. But counting my blessings did not fill the ache in my chest.

It wasn’t just. But I was beginning to understand that Adonai wasn’t always easy to read, and that perhaps, in the grand scheme of the universe, this was meant to happen. That it was better to be punished on Earth than in heaven, standing before Adonai, as you went through your life with Him.

Suddenly, I knew why I had been punished. I had been hasty, thinking I understood Moses’ anger, Tziporah’s longing to be part of my family. The love they both shared for one another. I had forgotten the thing that had kept me going all those years in Egypt: compassion.

Compassion for my fellow Hebrews, even for the slave masters who killed with no remorse, for it was the way they had been taught. Compassion, empathy; these were the cardinal principles I had lived by. What had happened?

Mulling my revelation over, I resolved to learn from this error, to try to be better, if not for myself, then for my people.

But for the mean time, I was alone, each breath edging me closer to God’s gates. I reached out. An angel appeared, flying towards me. I smiled, forgetting for a moment the state of my body, the affliction I was robed in. But she shook her head. She pointed down, down to the tents of my people. The people that would learn from my story, that would try to understand others before saying the first things that come to mind.

I awoke in the sand, still white, still covered in sores and flakes of skin. Alone. But no longer ashamed.