Deborah The Prophetess & Yael: Two Poems For Parashat Shoftim—by Barbara D. Holender

Deborah The Prophetess & Yael: Two Poems for Parashat Shoftim
Barbara D. Holender

Deborah The Prophetess

So, Barak, we’ve won the big fight
and Sisera’s done for
and good old Deborah’s one of the boys.
Off to the battlefield, Deborah,
I won’t go if you don’t, Deborah–
Why doesn’t it occur to you
I want to wear gorgeous robes
and smell of perfume
and just stay home, like Jael.

How come I know everything in advance
and you know nothing from yesterday?
For days before the battle
your men kept pure from women–
Where do you think your army went
all hot with victory
while you were counting Canaanite foreskins?
Damn it, Barak, wake up!

(Hebrew: Yael–mountain goat)
Wife of Heber the Kenite

Yes, Deborah will praise me for this.
But I am no warrior
How shall I explain to my hands
what they have done?

I keep repeating what Heber says,
but it does not comfort me:
“The enemy of my friend is my enemy”.
My enemy? I never saw the man before
he stood in my doorway
covered with mud, exhausted,

Sisera the Glory of Cannan
in the tent of a woman, saying
Hide me–
my God, didn’t he know his enemy?–
Sisera  the General, begging for water.

I gave him milk, I covered him.
He slept at my feet
like a great hairy child.
What repelled me so–the sleeper
or the fallen beast I feared might wake?

I watched my hand grasp the tent pin
and my right hand the hammer
that drove him beyond rousing.
Did he know? DId he know?
Only now am I terrified;
I never dreamed murder was so personal.

Children of Israel, your enemy
sleeps at my feet. Take him up,
take him up.